Jaws Review - Time to Close the Beaches!
by Peter Benchley
We are going to need a bigger boat. Most people know about
because of the iconic movie that was released in 1975 and directed by the one and only Steven Speilberg. At the time of its release, it was the main reason (and still is for my husband) that people began their intense and crippling fear of the ocean. Because when a shark has the option of a 300 pound delicious fat seal, they are really going to go for a 100 pound lady… Yeah… Right… Regardless of this,
still dominates and is one of the most classic shark movies of all time. Do you remember the part about the mafia and the main character’s wife having an affair? Probably not, because that was in the book… and thank goodness it didn’t make it into the movie.
The book begins with the iconic scene of a young couple on the beach. The woman decides to go skinny dipping in the ocean while the man passes out drunk on the beach (not sure who’s the bigger idiot here). She becomes the appetizer on this menu of doom and when her date wakes up, all he finds are her clothes on the sand and her nowhere in sight. As strange as it is that a naked woman has disappeared, the local police ignore this occurrence. For them to have ignored this, how often are people running away in the nude in this town?? It isn’t until they find her half eaten remains do they realize this could have been due to a shark attack. When Chief Brody tries to shut down the beaches and alert the media, the mayor stops him and hides the story because he fears this could drive away much needed tourists from the town - because apparently a man eating shark won’t scare away tourists.
It isn’t until a young boy is eaten that they send out a local fisherman to find and kill the shark, only to disappear with his boat found covered in bite holes with one of them containing a shark tooth. If we are keeping score, that shark is winning 3:0. We also discover that the reason the mayor is so adamant about keeping the beaches open is because the mafia is pressuring him to since they invested in real estate in the town of Amity and the tourists generate them a lot of money. Sounds less like mafia and more like typical American business owners but I digress. During this time, Brody’s wife also has a brief affair with Matt Hooper, a marine biologist that is here to help find the shark. Brody suspects the affair but doesn’t question his wife or Hooper on this.
The news finally breaks out about the killer shark which scares everyone away and no one else dies, The End. Just kidding, instead the foot traffic instantly increases as everyone wants to come to the beach to see this infamous shark! I suppose the mayor had nothing to worry about all along. After a close call when another young boy is almost eaten, Chief Brody finally shuts down the beach and decides to hunt after the shark with Quint, a professional shark hunter, and Hooper, his wife’s “secret” lover. Sounds like the perfect combination for an easy shark hunt, that is until Body suspects Hooper’s tryst with his wife and tries to strangle him.
After a few days on sea, they finally spot the 20 foot long shark! Using a shark cage, Hooper is lowered in the water in order to take pictures of the magnificent shark (I wonder how much I can pay my husband to do the same…). This proves to be a terrible idea as the shark cage is attacked underwater and the shark manages to bend through the bars and eat Hooper. It is down to Chief Brody and Quint to find the shark. The next day, the shark tries attacking the boat when Quint manages to shoot a harpoon into the shark. His foot gets tangled in the rope and he is dragged under water to his death. As the shark approaches Brody, it promptly dies from the wound of the harpoon, which makes Brody go back home as the hero...even though Quint is really the one who killed the shark right?
Final Rating & Thoughts: 3/10
I feel like I am being so harsh with this rating, but this might be one of only a few books where I would say the movie is better than the book - which is NEVER supposed to be the case. A movie is supposed to be an interpretation of the book and grab the main details and spin it into something that will be entertaining to watch. The movie did take the main details, and they left behind all the parts of this book that are just boring side plots. No one cared about the mafia connections and no one cared about the wife’s affair. I couldn’t even believe when Brody and Hooper were fighting on the boat because of Brody’s jealousy when they were supposed to be in the middle of a shark hunt. We were here to read about the big boy himself -
! For some reason though… he was missing half the time from his own book. How did that happen?? There is a giant shark right on the cover! How could you forget to focus on this guy?
I also feel like there wasn’t any true character development or meaningful dialogue. Even though there was a shark that was loose and killing people, I almost didn’t care because it sounded like no one else did. The only person who cared about this shark was Chief Brody and Quint. Everyone else was like “Well this shark is killing people, that sucks, who wants to go swimming?” I feel like it didn’t invoke any true fear that this shark was genuinely dangerous until the end when it attacked the shark cage. Don’t even get me started on when the shark just dies right in the middle of pursuing Brody. I’ll bet even Brody was floating in the water like “What the hell just happened..?”
I just don’t think this book holds a candle to the movie so for those that didn’t know that the movie was based on this book… you weren’t missing out on much. As much as I love the overall story and idea of a killer shark who just decides this town makes the perfect buffet, I feel like it was missing a lot of detail that could have really made
more interesting. I will give credit where it’s due though, without this novel we wouldn’t have the movie
and other popular shark movies and books. This book was iconic in the sense that it paved the way for an entire new category of horror - shark attacks! I would recommend this book to those that really want to see how this book compares to the movie. However, for those that truly love a good shark story, please read the review I made on
because that is my favorite shark book I have read thus far!
For those interested in this tale of the ocean’s fiercest predator, this is available for purchase on