I’m probably going to get struck by lightning for putting this out there on the internet, but I didn’t lose my mind over this book. I’m a bit too old to have grown up with The Princess Bride movie (it was all about Indy, Star Wars and Clash of the Titans for me), but my little brother introduced me to it when I was in my late teens. It’s a great movie, fun, quotable (‘I am Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die’), romantic and exciting; much more than the sum of its parts (although they are excellent parts). Somehow, the book doesn’t hit the spot in quite the same way.
Young couple Buttercup and Westley are parted when he goes off to seek his fortune and earn the right to ask for her hand. Buttercup is the most beautiful woman alive, and comes to the attention of crown prince Humperdinck of Florin. She thinks Westley dead, killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts, and so reluctantly agrees to marry Humperdinck. Just before the wedding, she is kidnapped by a motley crew made up of a Sicilian genius, a Spanish sword-fighter and a giant. A mysterious man in black defeats them all, and rescues her. And then Humperdinck catches up with them, and things start to get messy.
The story has it all – star-crossed lovers, revenge, poison, torture, resurrection, sword fights – and it is charming and funny. The characters are wonderful (my personal faves were Fezzik the giant and Miracle Max), and Humperdinck and his factotum Count Rugen are loathsome baddies. What makes it different from a standard fairy tale is that Goldman presents it as the abridgement of a much longer book by an S Morgenstern. Framing the book is a fictional story of how he first heard it as a child and how he came to publish the ‘abridged version’, which is interspersed with Goldman’s explanations and commentary. I think it was this that grated, and stopped the book being truly magical.
Right, I’m off to hide in my underground bunker in case lots of crazed Bride-iacs descend on me.