Graceann's Reviews > Close to Shore: A True Story of Terror in An Age of Innocence

Close to Shore by Michael Capuzzo
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Aug 30, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: history
Read from August 27 to 30, 2011

I never expected to read a book like this and feel sympathy for the "villain."

Michael Capuzzo has put together a time capsule of a book. In a style that is so compelling and so well-written as to be in the ranks of Laura Hillenbrand and Erik Larson (a compliment I rarely give), he takes us back to 1916, when people flocked to the beaches only to discover that a shark who had strayed off course, who was confused, frustrated and, worst of all, hungry, was in the neighborhood. This real-life story was Peter Benchley's inspiration for his 1974 novel, "Jaws," and the true story is at least as terrifying.

At a time when the "experts" were saying that there was no such thing as a shark that would attack humans, several people who lost sons and brothers would beg to differ. Capuzzo expertly portrays the panic of the time, with people like the champion swimmer Annette Kellerman giving advice regarding how to evade a shark attack, and even a cabinet meeting in Woodrow Wilson's white house devoted to the crisis. Lives were lost, the local economy crippled, and of course the media engaged in their own feeding frenzy.

I said early on that I had sympathy for the "villain" in the story, and I did. As I read, I could only think "poor thing is lost and starving; of course it's going to go for an easy bite." I was well aware of and sympathetic for the frustration being experienced on both sides of the beach that summer; I think that that's a compliment to Mr. Capuzzo's writing ability.
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