Ostensibly, William Goldman abridges the much neglected ancient tale of Florin featuring a princess, adventures, pirates, fencing, quicksand, a stupid giant, vengeful Spaniard, and a whole lot of adventure and derring-do. Buttercup and Westley fight for their love against a pain-loving duke, powerful Prince, wild beasts and even being Mostly dead. The non-stop adventure stops only for Goldman’s editorial interruptions, explanations and deviations….
This book had me fooled!! I knew no better than to trust the statement on the cover that it was indeed an abridgement of a classic tale by a Mr Morgenstern (who I’d never heard of) of the country Florin (which I’d never heard of). So though the tales told by Mr Goldman were just a little too fantastic… it still took me an embarrassingly long time to decide finally that this was a charade. And even then, I double checked on wikipedia.
But honestly, it was fantastic. Usually I don’t like being fooled, but here abridgement as a narrative device meant that the supremely ridiculous fairy tale adventure was somehow allowed – and for grown ups! The alleged abridger’s notes leant intrigue and authority to a tale that otherwise would probably send respectable readers running, as well as cleverly spinning a completely separate plot around the story itself.
The main story is fantastically ridiculous, from the beautiful princess Buttercup who the book occasionally reveals to be exceptionally stupid, to the slow giant Fezzik who consoles himself with rhyming words, to Inigo Montoya, the scarred Spanish swordman determined to avenge his father’s death, to Prince Humperdink’s Zoo of Death, containing five levels of dangerous animals and an albino zoo keeper. Happily if I have seen the whole film (I have vague memories) it was long enough ago to allow this to play out properly in my imagination, and I had a thoroughly good adventure.
I don’t want to give too much away because I think you’ll have already got the feel for this. If you like Monty Python, Labyrinth, Terry Pratchett (though I don’t), The Once and Future King or anything a bit fantastic and ridiculous it is well worth picking up. Go and read it, everyone!