Rating: 5 Stars
Age Recommendation: 15+
Warnings: Violence, Character Death, Torture
Genres: Fantasy, Action and Adventure, Romance, Fiction
Pages: 450 (Compact hardback version)
“Now a great fool,” he began, “would place the poison in his own goblet, because he would know that only another great fool would reach first for what he was given. I am clearly not a great fool, so I will clearly not reach for your wine.”
“That’s your final choice?”
“No. Because you knew I was not a great fool, so you would know that I would never fall for such a trick. You would count on it. So I will clearly not reach for mine either.”
“Keep going,” said the man in black.
“I intend to.”
The Princess Bride, by William Goldman, is not at all what I expected. Rather than simply being a fantastical story of a made up land, Goldman introduces us to a narrator, who tells us that his father was from Florin, and used to read him a story from his homeland. When the narrator’s son has a birthday coming up, his first instinct is to find a copy of the book for his son to read. The only problem, of course, is that his father cut out all of the boring parts, and only read Billy the good bits. So Billy takes it upon himself to create an abridged version, along with italicized footnotes and more, mainly for his son but also for anyone who is interested.
That story, of course, is interesting in itself. But the key to this book is the part most people will remember from the movie. Yes, we see a boy and his grandfather reading the book, but that’s not the focus of the piece, humorous or not. Instead, the movie focuses on Buttercup and Wesley, the main characters of the story our narrator is abridging for us.
As much as I usually complain about seeing the movie before reading the book, I didn’t know – when I first saw the film – that it was even based on a book. And yet here it is. It was first published in 1973, by Harcourt, and continues to hold importance within our culture. My father has a T-shirt that has a printed image of one of those write-your-own-name tags you used to see on employees at stores, but it reads, “Hello, my name is: Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
The writing is bafflingly funny, leading to embarrassing bouts of laughter in spaces entirely too public, such as the cafeteria in my dormitory on campus. Or on the bus, where I was reading this on the way to my internship. Needless to say, I got a few strange looks because of it. But I have no regrets. It was honestly the best choice for me right now, with everything leading up to graduation making my life feel incredibly hectic. I wanted something fun, something entertaining, and that wish was granted, a hundred times over.
As far as who should read this book, I’d say this: if you’d let you kid watch the movie, they’ll be fine reading this. I put 15+ for the age recommendation mainly because the vocabulary is fairly elevated, and there’s a fair few battles that happen between characters, ranging in type from a battle of wits to battles of swords. Not to mention the whole torture thing. But on the whole, it’s great fun. (Talk about a weird time to use that sentence.)
I’m glad I waited to read this, as I’ve seen the movie countless times, and this only makes it so much better. I’m heading home soon, and I’m sure I’ll start my break with a re-watch of the movie with my dad, so I can bother him throughout with comparisons between the book and the film. Even if you’ve seen the movie, then, it’s one of the books I most highly recommend, and absolutely my favorite in months.