This post is part of a month-long series of pre-dated posts running while I am on holiday. Feel free to comment, I’ll get back to you when I return!
Please note that any “reviews” I write here are simply my own opinion and that I am not doing any objective, informative reviews for this challenge. If there are any spoilers in a post, I will indicate it at the top.
I draw the book covers straight from Goodreads and you can click on the images to go to the book’s page on there.
** Yes! This post has some major spoilers! **
I’d like to make it clear right from the start that I do not read romance (I’ve said it before in this challenge). I hate it. Hate it. I avoid looking at that entire shelf in the bookshop or library. I roll my eyes and make a snide comment every time there’s a kissing scene on TV or if someone whispers a sweet-nothing into someone else’s ear. There is nothing sweet in my mind about a romance. Entire books have been spoiled because the foolish author stooped to folly and made the two main characters fall dramatically in love in the last couple of pages. Yes, I am indeed looking at you, The High Lord.
That said, from this very Princess Bride that I am now going to discuss comes the quote: “Cynics are simply thwarted romantics.” I’d call myself a cynic any day of the week. It’s not an insult if someone calls me this. I know I am cynical. Very. I am indeed a thwarted romantic, but not in the way you think. When I was little, I believed in fairy tales. I thought that one day every girl’s prince must come. Then I found out that guys would rather try to crush your spirit and break you and that chivalry was dead. (Okay, okay, only mostly dead. Yay, another Princess Bride reference!) And I started to hate these romantic books, because they’re not real. They still believe in the fairy tales. They still think the world is simple and that love will make everything okay. Actually, they believe that love is simple. I hate the view that represents of the world. That’s why I prefer dark fantasy over romance and I want to slap an author if they make two characters fall in love in the last couple of pages with no build up at all. So unrealistic. But enough about my cynicism and more about how The Princess Bride transcends all of this to become a book that I love, love, and also happens to be a romance. Really, I’m not that cynical – I’m just realistic.
What redeems The Princess Bride?
Well, it is funny. Very. The parentheses were basically killing me and when that silly Prince Humpty called Buttercup a “sweet pudding” I was rolling about on my bed laughing. It is so overdone. It is so obviously satire on that famous topic “courtly love” that it redeems all the fluff. It is so obviously written by someone as cynical as me about fairy tales that it was not long before I loved this book.
But what else do I love about this book?
Well, I love the back cover. The front cover is okay too, but I picked up my copy in a second-hand bookstore for— Well, it wouldn’t help to tell you the amount seeing that I have no idea what it is in dollars. But it was for something as pretty trivial. I actually bought it from the money that I should have bought a bus ticket from, but then the bus didn’t come and I had to wait for my father to fetch me from university. Thus, the next day when I went to the bookstore, I still had the bus ticket money in my pocket and it exactly covered the price of this book. It’s a bus-ticket book! Darn, I’m digressing again. What I actually meant to say is that this meant I did not get to pick my cover. I would have preferred that nice, popular cover with the dashing man in black dragging Buttercup by the hand, but instead I got the edition that was reprinted after the film came out. It’s got two actors on the front. I’m assuming that it’s Buttercup and Westley. Neither of them really look as described. Oh well. But the back cover: oh my! It’s plain red, with only the words:
“WHAT HAPPENS when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince in the world – and he turns out to be a son of a bitch?”
When I saw that, I was basically sold on the story already – I could smell a satire coming up.
And… what else?
Well, you’ve just got to admire William Goldman’s style. I was quite some way into the book before I began suspecting that *SPOILER ALERT* [this was not an abridged version like the inside cover said, but actually the original version. I believed that waffle in the front at first. I got some way before I started wondering, "But if the original version of this book is supposed to be so old that it has disappeared from the world, why is the language modern American?" When I finished reading, I confirmed this on Wikipedia. There is no "original" version. The whole "abridging" is just a literary device. In the days before Wikipedia, Goldman's fabrication must have been even more believable. Unless you actually read the copyright's page first, of course.]
Ah, it’s a wonderful story.
“What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.
In short, it’s about everything.”
But it’s not just about everything. It’s about books. And it’s about how “Life isn’t fair, it’s just fairer than death, that’s all.” When **MAJOR SPOILER ALERT** [Westley died, I was in shock. How could he die? He is the hero and this is a story! How could the story go on if you kill off the hero?] I couldn’t understand. Then I realised that I had got too caught up in the fairy tale and I had forgotten about the satire. The Princess Bride is a fairy tale for grown-ups. Everyone is not going to live happily ever after. Not all the bad guys are going to get punished. The hero is not immune to death just because he is a protagonist. Life isn’t fair and he is just as mortal as anyone else. That is why I love this story. It is about true love, but it is also about realism. You are going to get hurt.
Oh, and it has an open ending, which makes it the first fairy tale that I have seen with this characteristic. I like it: if I am feeling cynical, I can imagine that they all died within the next few minutes. Or I can imagine that they lived and made do eventually. It’s all up to you.
If you haven’t read it, read it. You may just think that William Goldman is a genius.
“Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”
Tomorrow’s post is about my favourite book from my childhood.