Wednesday, 8 August 2007


I used to think the book was always better than the movie; now I suspect I probably just prefer whichever I came across first, especially if I came across it when I was young and developed an attachment to it over the years.

That's how it was with 'The Princess Bride: I've known and loved the film for years, and I'd always wanted to read the book. When I realised that William Goldman was not just a one-hit wonder (as I'd assumed), but actually an incredibly respected author and scriptwriter (his most famous movie is still 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid'), I wanted to read it even more. Last Friday I came across it in Borders, and I read it on the weekend.

The story in the film stays very close to the book, although, like The Neverending Story, the book goes on a bit after the film ends. What's different about the book is that William Goldman says that he's not writing the story himself - only abridging S. Morgenstern's Guilderian classic down to the 'good bits', the way his father read it to him as a child. It's quite a clever idea, and I guess these days you've got to find a way to make a fairytale stand out, and it's a fun way of actually pretending that it's a true story (the author's name always undermines it otherwise). However, in the end, I found the annotations about the bits he'd 'skipped' distracting. I just wanted the story.

It's possible that my imagination has been too strongly coloured by the film - I couldn't imagine the characters any other way than they appear in the film, and as I read familiar scenes I imagined those from the movie. Perhaps the book is better than the film after all, and I'm just not in a position to judge. I did enjoy the bits where Goldman described the backstory of some of the characters - it made them come alive more, both in the film and the book.

It's a great book, but if you've already seen the movie, I'm not sure I'd recommend rushing for it. If, on the other hand, you haven't seen the film, read the book first, and then tell me which you prefer.


Margie said...

I saw the movie first and I LOVED the book!

m∃ said...

Oh, maybe it's just me then. That's good.