In honor of Valentine’s Day, each Lily is recounting the book that first made them blush, swoon, and fall in love with romance. Happy reading, heroes! And most of all, happy Valentine’s Day! Love, Lily
“The Princess Bride“ is a perfect book.
It’s just fact. It’s incontrovertible. The sky is blue. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. “The Princess Bride” is perfect.
And, okay, so I might be a bit biased. It’s my favorite book, after all. It’s what I turn to when I don’t know what else to read—I have large swaths of it memorized because of how often I’ve re-read it. But I really think that, objectively, it’s one of the most inventive, daring, and interesting books ever written, and that it works on every single level, for every single audience. If that ain’t perfection, then I don’t know what is.
Most people are familiar with the (also very wonderful) 1987 film adaption, in which the kid from The Wonder Years is read Westley and Buttercup’s tale of true love and high adventure as a bedtime story while he is ill.
The book goes a step further—William Goldman opens the book by telling the reader the story of his immigrant father, who bravely struggled through reading “The Princess Bride” to Goldman as a young child while he was confined to bed with a serious illness. Sound familiar?
Anecdotes from his father abound throughout the novel, interjected into the story. Goldman weaves them in expertly—the time his father stopped reading because his childhood self accused him of reading a passage wrong while aware of how sensitive his father was of reading in his second language. A similar scene plays in the movie, but Goldman makes the moment so personal that you almost can’t believe that all these memories are just as fictitious as Westley and Buttercup’s love affair.
That’s right: It’s all a part of the story.
“The Princess Bride,” as Goldman the Narrator (different than Goldman the Author) tells it, was written by a Florinese writer named S. Morgenstern. Goldman the Narrator fell in love with the book after his father read to him as a child, and as an adult, he’s decided to create a “good parts” version—it skips over some of the “history” (a word I use lightly here) and instead sticks to the main story—to Buttercup and Westley and Humperdink and Fezzik and Inigo and all those loveable characters you recognize from the movie.
So the first part of this very ambitious novel is the frame story: Goldman the Narrator telling the readers about his experiences with the novel as a young boy, as a writer inspired to “edit” it, as a successful screenwriter now charged with adapting it. He treats himself like a character, making up whole stories (one of my favorites includes an aside about his son feeling inspired by Fezzik—Goldman the Author doesn’t have a son, he has two daughters).
The next part is the story itself, the one you are probably familiar with: Buttercup the surprise princess and her farmboy-turned-pirate love, Westley. The story is so good, and I can’t accurately describe why. It works on every level. The satire is spot on and hilarious, but it also has moments of genuine sweetness and romance (ugh, Westley leaving the farm makes my heart feel things EVERY TIME). Buttercup and Westley have the kind of timeless, fairy tale romance that makes me swoon a little—and I am not the kind of girl who swoons easily.
But not to be content by telling the story in a straightforward manner, Goldman the Author outdoes himself. S. Morgenstern, the “real author” of the original Florinese novel (cough cough) often interjects his thoughts into the story as it goes along, telling you how he feels about taxes, doctors, stew, his wife, etc. The parentheses aren’t for every reader, but they’re probably my favorite part.
Goldman the Narrator also pops in every now and again to tell you what he “cut” from the “original novel.” He summarizes whole months of the story in a few paragraphs while telling you some of the insane things he’s edited (for example, something like twenty pages dedicated to one character packing hats). (Come ON, tell me that isn’t hilarious.) I often think about this technique and admire it—what a brilliant way to bypass the parts of the story that aren’t fun to write. As a writer myself, I am supremely jealous I didn’t think of this idea first.
It takes a special kind of author to write a “Lady and the Tiger” ending, and then pop in as a caricature of himself and make that exact comment to the reader.
I can’t think of another novel that accomplishes so much in just a couple hundred pages. If you want a sweet romance that will blow your mind with its absolutely insane story craftsmanship, look no further.
(It’s also free right now on Kindle Unlimited. COME ON KU READERS!!! READ THIS AND TALK TO ME (Liz) ABOUT THIS FOREVER!!!!!!!!!!!!! Please and thanks :))