"Sonny, don't you tell me what's worthwhile -- true love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops. Everybody knows that."
You know how you have favorite books, and they're on one level in your heart, and then you have one of your top three favorite books, and it's on entirely another level because you absolutely, utterly adore it and there's an actual soul-deep connection because not only do you get the book, but the book gets you?
WELL, MY DEARS.
I don't know how I can express how much this book means to me, or why it means so much to me. I grew up with the movie, yes, and I loved it of course, yes, but it was never what I'd call a 'favorite'. But then two years ago I read the book for the first time, and OHHHHH, DARLIN'S. I love it so much and I want to do it justice in this review and I have thousands of favorite quotes (hush, let me exaggerate) and I want to include them ALLLLL but I can't so I hope the review turns out okay anyway. :-P
For one thing, let's talk about Goldman's writing style. It's personal and rant-y and emotional and filled with run-on sentences and occasionally (*cough* often) heedless of grammatical rules. AND I LOVE IT. The way he sticks to his fable of this being only the abridgement of a longer book and pretends that it all started when his father read him a "good parts" version, and combines that with his own reflections on the story and on life in general is awesome and brilliant and by turns humorous or moving or both, and it gives the reader the chance to feel like they've really gotten to know a fellow story-lover along with the story he's telling them.
I never was worth beans at self-scrutiny. Everything I write is impulse. This feels right, that sounds wrong -- like that. I can't analyze -- not my own actions, anyway.
[Also, his use of italics (within the story itself; all of his "abridger remarks" are in italics, but the italics in the actual story part of the book) is SPOT-ON. He uses them really effectively -- not too often, but in precisely the right places.]
Then there are the characters. Some might complain that there's not enough character development in this book; personally, I don't mind whatever lack there may be. No, Goldman doesn't delve deep into his character's inner worlds very often, but the amount he gives is perfectly sufficient for me, at least in this story.
"Back when we were on the farm, I thought I loved you, but that was not love. When I saw your face behind the mask on the ravine floor, I thought I loved you, but that was again nothing more than deep infatuation. Beloved, I think I love you now, and I pray you only give me the chance to spend my life in constant proving."
And, too, Fezzik and Inigo -- especially Fezzik -- are developed SOOOO much more here than in the movie, and I just . . . CAN WE ALL JUST TAKE A MOMENT TO HUG FEZZIK, PLEASE? Okay, thanks. Fezzik's and Inigo's friendship is basically preciousness and I freaking adore the way Goldman wrote it. (I mean, honestly, I "freaking adore" nearly e.v.e.r.y. l.i.t.t.l.e. t.h.i.n.g. about the whole book, but, y'know.) Behold:
"Down is our direction, Fezzik, but I can tell you're a bit edgy about all this, so, out of the goodness of my heart, I will let you walk down not behind me, and not in front of me, but right next to me, and you put an arm around my shoulder, because that will probably make you feel better, and I, so as not to make you feel foolish, will put an arm around your shoulder, and thus, safe, protected, together, we will descend."
"Will you draw your sword with your free hand?"
"I already have. Will you make a fist with yours?"
"Then let's look on the bright side: we're having an adventure, Fezzik, and most people live and die without being as lucky as we are."
AND THE HUMOR. THE HUMOR.
[I'd give you an example, but most of the funny parts aren't half so funny unless you've been reading along and then he hits you with it, plus there are too many to choose from, so I shan't.]
You get little fun facts from the book that you don't get from watching the movie (such as the fact that the albino at the Zoo of Death and Yellin, the guy with the gate key who's in charge of the Brute Squad, are cousins). The villains are developed more in the book, too, which is great fun.
"I'll leave you to your imagination, then," the Count said, and he looked at Westley. "But I want you to know something before tomorrow night happens to you, and I mean it: you are the strongest, the most brilliant and brave, the most altogether worthy creature it has ever been my privilege to meet, and I feel almost sad that, for the purposes of my book and future pain scholars, I must destroy you."
There are specific parts in this book that have meant SO much to me because they've actually helped me in some of my moments of trying to make sense of my own emotions and perceptions and issues. I won't quote them here, because getting into the why's and wherefore's behind them is too long and complicated and personal to get into in a review, but I will say that THEY'RE THERE. <3 And pages 234 to 238 are some of MY FAVORITE EVER (like, ever ever). Goldman's plot theme of "Hey, actually, no, life isn't fair" is just . . . gahh. IT MEANS A LOT TO ME, THE WAY HE DOES IT.
In short, this is one of my heart-stories (I love that term, whoever came up with it!). I totally adore it. (I mean, for crying out loud, I just finished re-reading it for like the fourth, fifth, or seven-hundredth time last night and a part of me already wants to read it again.) It's one of those books that you just want to shove in everyone's face and tell them how much you love it, and then you get sad when you feel like they don't get how important it is to you.
IT'S REALLY GOOD, FAM. Oh, it has some flaws: Westley's and Buttercup's relationship could be criticized as neither the deepest nor the healthiest to ever grace the page (for one thing, when Westley is still the man in black, before Buttercup knows who he is, he actually slaps her instead of just threatening to do it as he does in the movie, and that, of course, is Not Okay); there's the whole fact of Inigo's quest for the Count really being an affair of revenge, which is also Not Okay (although we must bear in mind that no one else would serve justice upon him if Inigo did not, and though that certainly wasn't the primary motive in Inigo's mind, the Count is definitely a Baddie); Goldman makes some rather inappropriate remarks, considering his marital status, in the beginning; there's some brief but strong language; and so on and so forth.
Is it still a book that makes me want to shout from the rooftops (figuratively, of course) that this is a book that matters and it deserves to be looked upon as such, and that it's one of my favorites in all the world? Bet your bottom dollar.
It won't be everybody's favorite thing since sliced bread. I can't tell you that you will or should love it as I do, but, if I may be so bold, I do think I might encourage you to at least try it? Because if it IS "your thing," then boy, will you be happy you did.
I'm not trying to make this a downer, understand. I mean, I really do think that love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops. But I also have to say, for the umpty-umpth time, that life isn't fair. It's just fairer than death, that's all.