Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book
Rate this book
The classic, blockbuster thriller of man-eating terror that inspired the Steven Spielberg movie and made millions of beachgoers afraid to go into the water. Experience the thrill of helpless horror again—or for the first time!

320 pages, Hardcover

First published May 6, 1974

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Peter Benchley

53 books903 followers
Peter Bradford Benchley was an American author best known for writing the novel Jaws and co-writing the screenplay for its highly successful film adaptation. The success of the book led to many publishers commissioning books about mutant rats, rabid dogs and the like threatening communities. The subsequent film directed by Steven Spielberg and co-written by Benchley is generally acknowledged as the first summer blockbuster. Benchley also wrote The Deep and The Island which were also adapted into films.

Benchley was from a literary family. He was the son of author Nathaniel Benchley and grandson of Algonquin Round Table founder Robert Benchley. His younger brother, Nat Benchley, is a writer and actor. Peter Benchley was an alumnus of Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard University.

After graduating from college, he worked for The Washington Post, then as an editor at Newsweek and a speechwriter in the White House. He developed the idea of a man-eating shark terrorising a community after reading of a fisherman Frank Mundus catching a 4,550 pound great white shark off the coast of Long Island in 1964. He also drew some material from the tragic Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916.

His reasonably successful second novel, The Deep, is about a honeymooning couple discovering two sunken treasures on the Bermuda reefs—17th century Spanish gold and a fortune in World War Two-era morphine—who are subsequently targeted by a drug syndicate. This 1976 novel is based on Benchley's chance meeting in Bermuda with diver Teddy Tucker while writing a story for National Geographic. Benchley co-wrote the screenplay for the 1977 film release, along with Tracy Keenan Wynn and an uncredited Tom Mankiewicz. Directed by Peter Yates and starring Robert Shaw, Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset, The Deep was the second-highest grossing release of 1977 after Star Wars, although its box office tally fell well short of Jaws.

The Island, published in 1979, was a story of descendants of 17th century pirates who terrorize pleasure craft in the Caribbean, leading to the Bermuda Triangle mystery. Benchley again wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation. But the movie version of The Island, starring Michael Caine and David Warner, failed at the box office when released in 1980.

During the 1980s, Benchley wrote three novels that did not sell as well as his previous works. However, Girl of the Sea of Cortez, a beguiling John Steinbeck-type fable about man's complicated relationship with the sea, was far and away his best reviewed book and has attracted a considerable cult following since its publication. Sea of Cortez signposted Benchley's growing interest in ecological issues and anticipated his future role as an impassioned and intelligent defender of the importance of redressing the current imbalance between human activities and the marine environment. Q Clearance published in 1986 was written from his experience as a staffer in the Johnson White House. Rummies (aka Lush), which appeared in 1989, is a semi-autobiographical work, loosely inspired by the Benchley family's history of alcohol abuse. While the first half of the novel is a relatively straightforward (and harrowing) account of a suburbanite's descent into alcoholic hell, the second part—which takes place at a New Mexico substance abuse clinic—veers off into wildly improbable thriller-type territory.

He returned to nautical themes in 1991's Beast written about a giant squid threatening Bermuda. Beast was brought to the small screen as a made-for-TV movie in 1996, under the slightly altered title The Beast. His next novel, White Shark, was published in 1994. The story of a Nazi-created genetically engineered shark/human hybrid failed to achieve popular or critical success.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
55,701 (36%)
4 stars
51,846 (33%)
3 stars
34,678 (22%)
2 stars
8,757 (5%)
1 star
3,021 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,085 reviews
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 2 books247k followers
August 23, 2018
”Duuun dun
duuun dun
dun dun dun dun dun dun BOM BOM
dun dun dun dun dun dun
doo dedoo doo dedoo dede doo dede doo dededoo.”


 photo Jaws_zps3ebb9d32.jpg

Has there ever been theme music used in a film more effectively than for the 1975 blockbuster movie Jaws? A movie so powerful that there are legions of people that have refused to go into the water EVER AGAIN after seeing that movie. I’m not a water person. Growing up in the landlocked Midwest I prefer to be able to see the bottom of whatever body of water I happen to be in whether it be the lakebed, seabed, ocean floor, or bathtub floor. Let's just say the chances of me ever being eaten by a shark is almost statistically impossible. I like it that way.

The town of Amity is a summer town, most of the residents have to make enough money off the tourist trade in those few short months of “fun in the sun” to survive the winters. In particular the 4th of July weekend is critical, a time when the town goes from 1000 people to 10,000 people practically overnight. But unfortunately something deadly, something very hungry is...well...

 photo MattVergesJawsVariant_zpsc7d52d26.jpg
Matt Verges's version of the Jaws Poster art.

”At first, the woman thought she had snagged her leg on a rock or a piece of floating wood. There was no initial pain, only one violent tug on her right leg. She reached down to touch her foot, treading water with her left leg to keep her head up, feeling in the blackness with her left hand. She could not find her foot. She reached higher on her leg, and then she was overcome by a rush of nausea and dizziness. Her groping fingers had found a nub of bone and tattered flesh. She knew that the warm, pulsing flow over her fingers in the chill water was her own blood.
Pain and panic struck together. The woman threw her head back and screamed a guttural cry of terror.”


Peter Benchley goes on to describe in graphic detail what the fish does on the next pass. It actually made my blood run cold and has forever confirmed me in the validity of my own personal water rules.

I was surprised to discover that Peter Benchley has a literary heritage. He is the grandson of Algonquin Round Table founder Robert Benchley. They were a group of New York City writers that I’ve already marked down for further research.
 photo ce051362-2c26-4564-99bf-7543b3dd6e87_zpsd3e48e2f.jpg
(l-r) Art Samuels, Charles MacArthur, Harpo Marx, Dorothy Parker and Alexander Woollcott

”He developed the idea of a man-eating shark terrorizing a community after reading of a fisherman catching a 4,550 pound great white shark off the coast of Long Island in 1964. He also drew some material from the tragic Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916.” The book stayed on the bestseller list for 44 weeks and inspired the highest grossing film of all time up to that point.

 photo PeterBenchley_zpsef287a15.jpg
Peter Benchley and OMG it..its...him.

Politics are at issue and the struggle between Sheriff Martin Brody and the town counsel becomes a tricky balance between commerce and public safety. If the beaches close the town dies. If the beaches are open and someone else dies...well...that is a chance they feel they have to take. In the book Benchley has several subplots that further explain the special interests that are controlling the decisions made by the town counsel. These subplots were not needed in the movie version.

Brody’s wife Ellen also has a bigger role in the book. She is dissatisfied with her life. She married beneath her social set when she decided to tie herself to a police officer. She is from the country club, tennis, sailing, and spending money on frivolous bobbles class, but she misses more than the money and the clubs. She misses her people. When Matt Hooper comes to town, tall, handsome, dressed in an Izod shirt, and fashionable bell bottoms (they went a slightly different direction in the movie.) she instantly feels comfortable with him. ”The past--like a bird long locked in a cage and suddenly released--was flying at her, swirling around her head, showering her with longing.”

It turns out Ellen even dated Matt’s much older brother David and the memories of that time of her life flood her with thoughts she’s never had before. Her infatuation with Matt creates tension between her husband and the ichthyologist. Brody suspects the worst, and with the shark in the water and the piranhas on the town counsel he doesn’t need another distraction.

 photo CzechJawsPoster_zps8f85fee8.jpg
Czech Jaws Poster

In desperation they finally turn to a local fisherman and shark hunter Quint. His rates are exorbitant and in the beginning he is doing it for the money, but as the fish continues to exhibit higher intelligence and even out foxes him a couple of times he becomes obsessive. Killing the Great White becomes his quest. Herman Melville please take a bow, Captain Ahab has just been reincarnated in a pop culture horror book.

The shark comes within a hair’s breadth of winning.

It was interesting reading the book and seeing the movie in such a close time frame. Benchley wrote the screenplay, and frankly did an excellent job cutting and slicing his book into a great movie. Many believe that the film is better than the book. With the great music by John Williams and the solid acting from Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider, and Robert Shaw I will have to agree. It was a book that turned out to be the perfect concept for the making of an iconic film. I was also pleasantly surprised by how well the movie holds up. We still jumped when we were supposed to, and turned away when the suspense became too much.

Ever since I took a book and film class in college I have loved, when possible, to read the book and then watch the movie. I feel it completes the cycle of an idea. Usually the book wins, but in this case Steven Spielberg took a wonderful idea and made it better. As I mentioned the book has subplots not covered in the movie and knowing those subplots, I believe, actually enhanced my enjoyment of the film.

This is the third in what I hope will be a string of reviews exploring 1970s horror fiction (The Shining was published in 1980 but was written and influenced by the ‘70s.). The very books my parents would not let me read, but now are helpless to stop me. *Insert Evil Laugh*

The Exorcist Review
The Shining Review

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit https://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at: https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,845 reviews16.3k followers
February 3, 2020
Excellent book.

First of all Peter Benchley’s 1974 novel Jaws is darker and more complicated than Spielberg’s film. And it was a magnificent motion picture, a work of art with few peers and a production that garnered Spielberg his first high accolades. Benchley’s novel, as are most books, almost by artistic default, is more complex, with characterizations that are developed and interconnected, with a group dynamic that is as interesting as the surface story about a man-eating shark that eats a town.

That was my first, pleasant surprise in reading the novel. I don’t know what exactly I expected, maybe a slightly more expounded storyline, a novelization of the surface film. What I found was a rich, layered, elaborately detailed modern morality play. More than that even, Benchley has created an allegory whereby the surface story of a shark attacking a village is represented as a conflict between Eastern elite monied people and the blue collar folks who work for a living in Amity; the great white is as DNA programmed to attack and feed as the Izod wearing preppies who populated the town in the summer are to an entitled existence at the top of our socio-economic food chain.

More than a class struggle, a distinction between summer and winter people in an Atlantic ocean hamlet, Benchley makes subtle statements about the sharks among us, about those in our culture who reach out and take what they want, consequences and laws be damned, and those of the vast majority who follow rules and who have established expectations about what life has for them.

There is always a bigger fish.

Just as Robert Shaw’s portrayal of Quint stole the show in Spielberg’s classic, so too does Quint in Benchley’s masterpiece. The most obvious, but superficial comparison will be to Melville’s Ahab; both the larger than life, iron wielder of a harpoon, both seeking a white monster from the depths. But contextually, Benchley has cast Quint more closely with Conrad’s Kurtz, London’s Wolf Larson and Hemingway’s white hunter; all rolled into a metaphor for Benchley’s alpha male. Quint is the Nietzchean superman, the zenith predator of our society, pitted against the premier hunter from nature. Benchley’s description of Quint is too similar to Conrad’s Kurtz to be coincidence and so Brody becomes Benchley’s Marlow, our link to the primitive narrative, the chronicler of what has passed, and the bridge back to our world from the brief glimpse into atavistic shadows.

In the end, this is an excellent book, a fascinating story that works on many different levels. Like Bernard Malamud’s The Natural is to the film of the same name and Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is to Bladerunner, Benchley’s work is deeper and richer than Spielberg’s film, and a fan of the film will want to read this to discover it’s intricate and fundamental differences.

** 2018 - it is a testament to great literature that a reader recalls the work years later and this is a book about which I frequently think. There is a scene of infidelity that has stayed with me. Benchley is an extraordinary writer to create a work that resonates for years later.

description
Profile Image for Matthew.
1,219 reviews8,681 followers
October 16, 2018
Today is the first full day of my Beach vacation. Here is my view:



Today I finished reading Jaws and this is all I see:



So . . . Maybe not the best timing!

Jaws is an easy and cheesy read. I have seen the movie before and figured it would mainly be suspense. But, there is a whole lot of melodrama and naughty romance, too. Also, it is very dated and you can just feel the 70s oozing out of the dialogue.

In some cases, the things I mentioned in my previous paragraph might be considered bad. But, in this case I think they add to the charm, entertainment, and sometimes silliness of the book. Combined, it is just a fun and easy getaway. Like going to a Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum: your are appalled, you are terrorized, you are scandalized, and all you want is more!

Read it for a fun getaway - if you want deep meaning, you will want to look elsewhere.
Profile Image for Melissa ♥ Dog/Wolf Lover ♥ Martin.
3,368 reviews9,438 followers
July 23, 2017
Well, I finally decided to read the book after watching the movie a million times growing up. And it's a summery read =) I quite enjoyed it. I wasn't sure it was going to be good, but I was wrong and I just might read the other books.



Here's the thing, just don't go in the water when you know people have been killed by a shark. What the hell is wrong with people?



I wish I could have watched the movie again so I could see how much was different in the book. Some of it I don't think even happened in the movie but I'm not sure as I have lumped all the movies together in my head. Lol

The corrupt people are in the book not wanting to shut down the beach. The town would never survive the winter if they don't make lots of money in the summer. Who cares if some people get eaten. Lets just cover it up. Isn't that the way?

Then we get the ole boys out to try to kill a fish. That didn't go over too good and it was sad for the most part. But I still loved it.







If you want a really quick summer read, or a trip down memory lane, or a killer shark book, then here you go =)

Fin < -- See what I did there ;-D
Profile Image for Julie G .
857 reviews2,632 followers
August 12, 2017
Before I burn my copy of Jaws for kindling, to prepare a lovely batch of s'mores for my children on this last week of summer before school begins, I will pause briefly here to give you my review.

Jaws the book inspired Jaws the movie, which inspired my wicked, decades-long crush on Roy Scheider (I was convinced we'd be married someday). The movie also terrorized millions of viewers and inspired fear of the ocean and the unnecessary killings of no-one-will-ever-know-exactly-how-many sharks.

The author himself, in an updated Introduction from 2005 (a year before his death) explains that “I could never write Jaws today. I could never demonize an animal, especially not an animal that is much older and much more successful in its habitat than man is.”

Apparently, he was so disheartened by the unfortunate outcome of his novel (the unnecessary killings part), he devoted the later part of his life to marine conservation, writing, “I'd feel like an ingrate if I didn't give something back.”

So, he redeemed himself. Felt guilty, rather than cocky (a feeling he must have been somewhat familiar with, given all of his slips, when he mentions his Harvard education and his extensive yachting in prior interviews), and he sought to remedy his inaccurate portrayal of the Great white shark.

But, personally, I don't fault him for using his imagination to write a fantastical, fictional story. That's what writers do. That's their job.

I fault him for how damn lousy his story is.

Let's start here: if you made two sock puppets, and put them on your hands and then had your two hands communicate with each other, using the same weird voice for each puppet, then you would have accurately summed up the dialogue in this story.

I honestly haven't come across dialogue this brutal, this unbelievable, since Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived, and I still suffer PTSD from that “novel.”

Also, the characters ARE sock puppets. Stinky sock puppets with button eyes and sweat stains that can not express themselves or feel or grow. Frankly, they are not much more than a pile of lint.

And, when one character, Ellen Brody, finally breaks away from the pack of sock puppets and seems as though she might become three dimensional, she ends up in a scene where she whispers to a man that she is trying to seduce that her two sexual fantasies are (get ready, ladies). . . one, to be a prostitute, so she can have multiple partners and two, to be raped by a stranger, because she's pretty sure she'd have an orgasm, if her life was threatened and she was taken against her will.

Mr. Benchley, I know you are dead, and I hope you're resting in peace, but I CRY FOUL, SIR. I CRY FOUL.

Ain't no woman, no where, no how, (unless she's been abused or had some type of psychological troubles) has THESE FANTASIES, SIR. I do believe these are YOUR FANTASIES, not hers, especially since you started chapter 2 with a patrolman reading a detective novel where the heroine is “about to be raped by a motorcycle club,” and he is practically licking his lips.

What was wrong with you, Mr. Benchley??

Also, enough with the obsession with a man's height, a man's weight, and the size of his genitalia. Gag me with a harpoon already.

I found myself just about shouting: WHERE'S THE DAMN SHARK?? WHERE'S THE DAMN SHARK?? Could somebody CUE THE SHARK??

Three stars for the shark.
Profile Image for karen.
3,968 reviews170k followers
August 5, 2019


"Relentless terror." - The Philadelphia Inquirer

i mean, obviously that’s ridiculous - this book isn’t even remotely scary, but it’s also not as bad as modern people claim. obviously, opinions/schmopinions, and i’m not defending this as a hallmark of great literature or anything, but it has its charms. most of those charms involve how it feels like a pre-outrage time capsule, with its “hysterical” women and its “faggots” staging a nude dance party and the recurring exploits of a “black gardener” raping the neighborhood's white women who all refuse to press charges, leaving me unsure if benchley is insinuating that these are not rapes but consensual, shameful, interracial sex acts or that women are too afraid to press charges and i’m hard-pressed to decide which explanation is more racist. but bass weejuns and izod and neighbors borrowing cups of seconal, really - what’s not to love about this?

and that shark

There was no conviction that what thrashed above was food, but food was not a concept of significance. The fish was impelled to attack: if what it swallowed was digestible, that was food; if not, it would later be regurgitated.



seriously, guys, there is a dead cat used as a weapon, even though it is ineffectual and probably meant more to emphasize a point than to cause harm:

Brody hit Vaughan on the chest with the cat and let it fall to the floor.

still, though. still.

and there are real estate schemes and mafia subplots and romantic entanglements and so many things that didn't make it into the film, like the lamentations of a woman feeling the sting of not getting any younger, losing her shiny sexxy feminine allure,

A terrible, painful sadness clutched at Ellen. More than ever before, she felt that her life - the best part of it, at least, the part that was fresh and fun - was behind her. Recognizing the sensation made her feel guilty, for she read it as proof that she was an unsatisfactory mother, an unsatisfied wife. She hated her life, and hated herself for hating it.



MOAR SECONAL PLZ

and HOW is there not more attention called to the best line in any book, anywhere, as quint yells at the great white himself:

“I see your cock, you bastard!” cried Quint

how are there no t-shirts made of this? how did this not make it into the film? how can a book containing that line receive fewer than five stars from any reviewer, anywhere??


jaws claps back, "i eat your cock!!'

i am aware i did not myself give this book five stars. i'm not here to do math.

i am just here to declare that this is a pretty fun book. i read it in a single day, during all of the previous year's shark week reruns counting down to SHARK WEEK 2018, and my very low expectations of entertainment were met and SURPASSED.

there are some objectively terrible parts of the book, sure. people behave unrealistically, it's written in a blunt, choppy manner, and that ending is suuuuper abrupt, but it's a breezy sharkromp that is nowhere near as campy/offensive/absurd as Guy N Smith's offerings.

although this:

Four to midnight was the trouble shift, when the young studs from the Hamptons would flock to the Randy Bear and get involved in a fight or simply get so drunk that they became a menace on the roads; when, very rarely, a couple of predators from Queens would lurk in the dark side streets and mug passerby…


suggesting that predators from queens lurk, "very rarely" or not, why - it makes me want to go mug some passerby...



come to my blog!
Profile Image for Regina.
1,136 reviews2,686 followers
Read
October 27, 2021
DNF @ 75%.

Jaws (1974) has been on my October Halloween reading list for years, but I never got to it until now. I haven't seen the movie in its entirety and thus was able to go into it without many expectations.

As it turns out, I am what I am. And what I am is a reader who can read about animals killing people but not people killing animals.

I breezed through scene after scene that described the shark preying on swimmers (I mean, it's gotta eat, right?), though I had to throw in the towel once the people of Amity started their capture/kill efforts against the shark.

Things I also didn't appreciate: Use of the derogatory F-word slur, the lack of scariness, a boring and overly-descriptive sexual affair, and the graphic description of the murder of a cat.

NOT FOR ME.
Profile Image for Nayra.Hassan.
1,260 reviews5,046 followers
June 14, 2022
هل المياه آمنة؟
الأدباء يمرون على البحر مرور الكرام فلا تبتل اقدامهم..بل لعلهم يذهبون البحر ليغوصوا في أعماق ابطالهم فحسب
اما مع بيتر بينشلي فستتنفس عبق البحر و رائحة اسماكه؛ستحارب معه وحوش القاع و ستهاب فكوك القروش..و اعتى القراصنة
Screenshot_2018_07_15_05_50_00_1
🌊في "فكان "ستعرف انك لتهرب من القرش يجب الا تندفع مسرعا السطح ..بل عليك العودة بهدوء للقاع و إثارة الرمال حولك لانها تسد خياشيم القرش تماما

اذن هنا انت مع أدب سيفيدك حتما يوما ما..أدب لا يتعالى على متاعب قد تواجهها في رحلاتك او في حياتك على السواحل

أدب يناقش مخاوفك المشروعة جدا من مخلوقات تجهلها...التي قد تتحول لهيستيريا تقتلك
أدب يناقش كيف يخرج الخطر أقصى قدراتك
أدب مغامرات مختلف 🐬

و لا يمكن فصل الرواية او تفضيلها على فيلم سبيلبرج الاسطورى.. نتذكر موسيقاه الكابوسية كلما اقتربنا من الامواج متوجسين
Profile Image for Colin Baldwin.
Author 1 book212 followers
July 12, 2022
I found a well-worn copy on my bookshelf. I was not old enough to gain entry into a cinema to see the movie when it was released but, as a substitute, I got to read the book on a plane from UK back to Tasmania.
Spielberg's movie, when I got to see it (more than once) did not disappoint with its suspense, but I understand it was filmed not without controversy and that Benchley may have regretted the book's misleading depiction (behaviour) of the main character, Jaws.
Profile Image for Matt.
899 reviews28k followers
March 28, 2021
“At first, the woman thought she had snagged her leg on a rock or a piece of floating wood. There was no initial pain, only one violent tug on her right leg. She reached down to touch her foot, treading water with her left leg to keep her head up, feeling in the blackness with her left hand. She could not find her foot. She reached higher on her leg, and then she was overcome by a rush of nausea and dizziness. Her groping fingers had found a nub of bone and tattered flesh. She knew that the warm, pulsing flow over her fingers in the chill water was her own blood…”
- Peter Benchley, Jaws

I have been told many, many times that I write long reviews. That’s my style, and I’m sticking with it. But I’m willing to experiment. Accordingly, I decided to try a little writing exercise. Instead of explaining myself, I’m going the Twitter route. No explanations! Only conclusions!

So, without further ado, here is my four word review of Jaws: Just watch the movie.

Helpful? Not really? Okay. Let’s try this. I will do a two sentence review (though it will also have only four words): Less talk. More chomp.

***

Still here? All right, I have a few things to add.

First, I have to say upfront that discussing Peter Benchley’s novel is impossible without reference to Steven Spielberg’s film. This is one of the rare instances where the old chestnut about the “book being better than the movie” is completely wrong. It’s not simply a matter of the book being terrible and the movie being great. It’s a matter of the movie being one of the greatest of all time, and making the book seem terrible by comparison. Thus, I constantly had to remind myself to judge Benchley’s work as literature, rather than engage in a one-sided comparative analysis.

Second, with that said, I will still probably refer to Spielberg’s all-time classic more than a couple times.

Jaws is a novel I’ve read twice before. The first time I was way, way too young to fully grasp what I was reading. I am referring, of course, to some of the most horribly written sex scenes this side of early Ken Follett. The second time I read it, I was a bit savvier, able to comprehend (if not enjoy) what I was reading, and definitely appreciated the awful sex scenes (probably too much, if we’re being honest).

This, my third read-through, came about after watching the film for the (roughly) millionth time in my life. Afterwards, I pulled my battered paperback off the shelf and decided to test my earlier recollections. At 278 pages, it is a small time investment, and it’s summery setting allowed me to pretend that warmer weather was coming, even as alternating snow/rain showers dampened my hopes.

The most striking thing about Jaws is how its premise is absolutely perfect. Quaint ocean-side village, dependent on summer tourism dollars, is terrorized by a killer Great White Shark. A cop, a marine biologist, and an obsessed fisherman go out to stop it. A solid gold story.

Early on, Benchley capitalizes on this, to wonderful effect. His novel starts with an irresistible (fish) hook: “The great fish moved silently through the night water, propelled by short sweeps of its crescent tail.” Within the first few pages there is a graphic and terrifying attack. Benchley immediately had me on the line, and all he had to do was reel me in.

(You are probably wondering, at this point, whether I will stop using the cheap fishing metaphors. The answer is yes. Not because you’re asking, but because I ran out).

And then Benchley utterly screws things up. Instead of honing in on what works, instead of tightly focusing on the central conflict of man versus nature, Benchley drifts away with the tide. This should have been Moby Dick, but with a Shark. Instead, it’s Moby Dick, but with a Shark, and a shading of The Godfather, and a bit of half-baked Updike.

Among the film's many achievements is its near-flawless pacing. The shark attacks. The denizens of Amity aren’t sure it’s a shark, so they keep swimming. The shark attacks again. The town responds by killing a different shark. The shark returns a third time, reminding everyone of the danger. And so on and so forth. All the film’s conflicts are drawn from the (mostly) unseen menace beneath the waves. The tension continues to rise as this shark, circling the island, draws tight an invisible noose, until our heroes must leave land and confront the beast on its own turf.

Benchley has no use for this pared-down – albeit highly effectual – narrative arc. Instead, after the initial onslaught, the storyline sort of wanders away. Chief Brody, Amity’s top cop, starts to lose the thread of his case. Instead of worrying incessantly about the shark, he becomes preoccupied by Mayor Larry Vaughn, and Vaughn’s secretive business dealings. Meanwhile, Brody’s wife, Ellen, is having a hell of a life crisis. Born wealthy, she went slumming to marry Brody, and now, three kids later, she is starting to regret her decision. When young Woods Hole oceanographer Matt Hooper – a trust funder himself – comes to town, Ellen’s eyes start to wander.

(This is not really a spoiler, but more of an irrelevant aside: )

One of Benchley’s big themes, if it can be called that, is the notion of class immutability. I’m not talking simply wealth, though it plays a role. Rather, I’m referring to how certain groups of people hold themselves out as a distinct caste, superior to others, who are not allowed access to this inner circle. At one point, Benchley writes about a bunch of rich youngsters sunning themselves on the beach:

These were not Aquarians. They uttered none of the platitudes of peace or pollution, of justice or revolt. Privilege had been bred into them with genetic certainty. As their eyes were blue or brown, so their tastes and consciences were determined by other generations. They had no vitamin deficiencies, no sickle-cell anemia. Their teeth – thanks either to breeding or orthodontia – were straight and white and even. Their bodies were lean, their muscles toned by boxing lessons at age nine, riding lessons at twelve, and tennis lessons ever since. They had no body odor. When they sweated, the girls smelled faintly of perfume; the boys smelled simply clean.


This is an excellent passage. A pointed and humorous critique of upper middle class privilege in the 1970s. But it felt like it belonged in a different book. Benchley uses this observation as a jumping-off point for an extended live-autopsy of Brody and Ellen’s marriage. The centerpiece of this narrative deviation is a dinner party that Ellen throws on Hooper’s behalf. During the liquor-fueled evening, Benchley delves into the psyches of both husband and wife. To his credit (I suppose), he is not afraid to make them both terrible people. Brody is brutish, coarse, a bit of a lout, and a functioning alcoholic to boot. Ellen is a 36 year-old mother reverting to a spoiled 15 year-old teenager with a Barneys charge card. Again, in an entirely different novel, this totally works as a scene from a marriage about to implode. But this is Jaws! A dinner party is your main set piece?

Above, I mentioned the awkward sex scenes. I don’t want to spoil them for you. They are a treat. Specifically, there is a lunchtime conversation about sexual fantasies that is among the most cringe-inducing things I’ve ever read. I sort of wished I’d filmed myself reading it. My face would have looked like I’d just shoved an entire lemon into my mouth, and bit down.

Things eventually come back around to the shark. By that point, though, I hardly cared.

The movie’s version of the charter boat captain Quint is among the most indelible characters in cinematic history. Book-Quint is terrible, a foul-mouthed, one-dimensional old salt who is more of a hustler chasing green than an Ahab chasing a creature from the deep. This is important, because the endgame of both book and novel resolve around Brody, Quint, and Hooper sharing a small boat on the big sea. Benchley’s inability to find any interesting interactions between the three men keeps the book from reaching any dramatic climax. (The book’s only climax occurs when…oh, never mind). Instead, the story drags and sputters on a downward course, until it staggers to an abrupt and entirely unfulfilling end.

It would be overly glib to say that the best character in Jaws is the Great White Shark. It would also be true. However, I mean that with all due respect. The shark is an amazing creation. It is relentless and frightening; its intellect is almost supernatural; its intent borders on the psychopathic. The shark is like Michael Meyers, before Rod Zombie overanalyzed Michael Meyers to the point of boredom. Hiding beneath the waves, a remorseless machine that has evolved to hunt, kill, and eat, the shark is a compelling, mysterious, dread-evoking presence. It should have driven the story from its first memorable appearance. Instead, it disappears for long stretches, and not because, as in the movie, it had a mechanical breakdown.

When the shark is gone, we are left with a shallow and tawdry tale of rather unlikable humans making a wreckage of their lives. It gets to a point where you don’t just miss the shark’s dramatic momentum, but you start to root for him to somehow get on shore and make an entrance at that interminable dinner party.
135 reviews134 followers
April 16, 2018
3.5 stars - rounded down.

"You're gonna need a bigger boat..."
That line was improvised by Roy Scheider on the day of shooting.

Loved the movie, which is based on Peter Benchley's 1974 novel of the same name. At first, I didn't favour either the movie or the book (which is different to the film), but the further I got into the novel, the less I enjoyed it. So, for me, at least, the movie was definitely superior. I enjoyed reading the book, for the most part - but couldn't get used to some of the characters patois, and some of the sentence structure didn't work for me. It didn't flow as well as I would've liked. The Kindle edition has a few typos: waman (woman), gelling (yelling), shift (shirt), etc, so that was a bit annoying, as well.

A Great White (Carcharodon Carcharias) brings terror to Amity Island - when a young woman (Christine Watkins) is killed after going skinny dipping in the early hours. Her remains are found by Officer Leonard Hendricks, washed up on the beach, after Brody, Hendricks and her date, Tom, go searching for her. Well, they find her. What's left of her, anyway. And they proceed to have a puking contest.

When Brody realises, she was killed by a shark - he wants to close the beaches, but has opposition from just about everyone, more or less. He's on his own. The towns economy is not doing so well, and with the beaches closed - well, they need the summer tourists to bring in the revenue or the town will die. The Mayor, Lawrence (Larry) Vaughan gives Brody an ultimatum: open the beaches or lose your job. So it becomes open season. Then another victim is claimed by the shark, and he has no choice but to close the beaches, indefinitely, whether he has a job - or not.

He eventually gets help from a fisherman, Quint, to hunt down and kill the shark, which is going to cost double the usual rate.

I didn't really care about Ellen Brody's infidelity with Hooper, which was going to be a subplot in the movie. Thankfully, it was left out. I did like Daisy Wicker, though. She was quite funny, whilst conversing with Brody at the dinner party - for Hooper. Lee Marvin and Sterling Hayden were originally the first and second choices to play Matt Hooper in the film, but they turned it down - and Richard Dreyfuss got the part.

Anyway, all they have to do is turn the shark upside down, to cause it to go into 'tonic immobility' - a state of paralysis. Some families of skilled Killer Whales 'hunt and eat' Great Whites for their livers. A female Orca was observed holding a Great White upside down for fifteen minutes in the waters around the Farrallon Islands, off the coast of California. Although, both species have their advantages and disadvantages.

As for the film, it's the seventh-highest grossing movie of all time in Canada and the US - with an estimated 128, 078, 800 admissions. The budget was $9 million and it took $470.7 million at the box office. Nice payday. It was the first movie to gross over $100 million at the box-office; highest grossing movie of all time - at least, it was until Star Wars was released two years later. Yeah, well, nothings forever.

The reason we don't get to see the shark much in the movie (it didn't fully appear until 1 hr 21 mins into the movie), is because the mechanical shark (Bruce) rarely worked. It was mainly non-functional. It's named after Spielberg's Lawyer, Bruce Ramer. I wonder what he thought of that? There was some real shark footage used in the movie, but it was used sparingly.

The fictional town of Amity was shot on location at Martha's Vineyard. It took three days to shoot the opening scene. A Martha's Vineyard fisherman, Craig Kingbury (non-actor) appears in the movie as Ben Gardner. Spielberg' got the job of directing, because of his movie - Duel.

In conclusion: I liked it for the most part, but my interest started to dwindle the further I got into the story - and it finished, too abruptly. Some scenes in the book were better than the movie, and vice versa. Some of the deaths were different in the movie; the way they played out, and the Killer Whale on the beach wasn't in the book. Overall, I preferred the movie. It had an excellent cast.
Profile Image for Kelly (and the Book Boar).
2,394 reviews7,263 followers
July 19, 2017
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

2.5 Stars

“That fish is a beauty. It’s the kind of thing that makes you believe in a god. It shows you what nature can do when she sets her mind to it.”

Houston commercial photography

I’m getting ready to write a sharky review . . . .

Houston commercial photography

Alright. Now that THAT is done, let’s get to the sad state of affairs which is my reaction to the novel Jaws. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this review – mainly because I’m bummed out. I was sure I would love this book and held out until the most magical of all weeks in order to read it and give it the praise I’m sure it would deserve. Ummmm, yeah. Well, that didn’t work out, but after finding some inspiration from my buddies Hooper and Quint . . . .

Houston commercial photography

I did manage to finish this one and only cried for a little while.

At the end of the day Jaws is a fish story. Plain and simple. That’s all anyone really cares about and, really, that’s all it should have been about. Things started off with a real bang with descriptions of the shark itself and its thought process while perusing the ocean for a late-night snack. It was delicious. Sadly, the magic didn’t last long and the waters were almost instantaneously muddied (*hyuck hyuck*). Affairs, mafia side-plots, yada yada yada. We care about the shark eating people, plain and simple. No one gives a shit about horrible Ellen Brody!

But now that I’ve brought up that bitch character, let me elaborate. I didn’t like movie version Ellen Brody, but I absolutely DESPISED book version. I didn’t want to hear about how much she hated the life she chose for herself by “settling” with Brody and I REALLY didn’t enjoy hearing about her rape fantasies while she was attempting (horribly, I might add) to seduce Hooper. And Hooper! WTF HOOPER? You made Mitchell want to get stabby stabby, and y’all know we can’t risk another investigation involving Mitchell shenanigans . . .

Houston commercial photography

Jaws was a 2 Star read, but it's getting a ½ Star bump for the ending (which is probably the one thing most other people didn’t like).

At the end of the day I have nothing left to say except for thank you. Thank you, Steven Spielberg for really taking the ol’ shoe shine kit to this turd of a book and creating something magical. Thank you for giving us one of the most quotable quotes of all time . . .

Houston commercial photography

Thank you for giving Quint’s story even more depth . Thank you for giving us a classic that scared the crap out of me as a child and that I finally got to scare the crap out of my own children with this past year. You, sir, are a god amongst men . . .

Houston commercial photography

My friend ☣Lynn☣ says White Shark is what Jaws could have been, so this won’t be the last Benchley novel for me. Until the time when I get around to reading that one, though, I’ll simply say . . .

Houston commercial photography

Profile Image for Steven Medina.
185 reviews806 followers
April 6, 2022
Qué bonita sorpresa me he llevado tras esta lectura. Un gran clásico.

Hace unas horas que finalicé mi lectura pero aún sigo teniendo un cierto «olor a mar» en lo profundo de mis fosas nasales. Es una situación curiosa y que solo me había ocurrido una vez con el libro de, El Perfume, donde página tras página sentí fragancias por doquier. Realmente, esta experiencia ha sido inesperada, pero nada negativa.

En cuanto al libro, en general he terminado muy satisfecho. Es una obra que presenta un buen argumento —como me gusta—, una prosa muy amena, personajes desarrollados óptimamente... en resumen, sí, ha sido una buena elección seleccionar esta lectura. En la reseña completa que será más adelante profundizaré más sobre cada aspecto, pero de momento debo manifestar que sentí como si hubiera estado leyendo una obra de Stephen King. La estructura del libro, la forma de narrar la historia, y sobre todo de ambientar el terror, se parece bastante a lo que realiza Stephen en sus famosísimas historias de horror. Muy buen libro.

Reseña completa más adelante.
Profile Image for Ron.
375 reviews84 followers
June 17, 2022
Did you know that the title Jaws nearly never existed? Among the many titles brainstormed, “Great White” topped the list, along others like “Shimmo”, “White Death”, and even “The Fish”. In the last seconds before the printing deadline, Peter Benchley crossed out the original title and penned in the single word, JAWS. “Don't know what it means”, he said, “but at least it's short.” The name is ubiquitous to nearly only one thing now, and then certainly after the summer of 1975 when the movie premiered, but nobody knew what it meant after it had been decided upon. Besides, they thought, what we have here is a first novel about a fish, and nobody reads first novels. “Furthermore, and as a does of reality, we all loudly agreed that there wasn't a chance that anybody would ever make a movie out of the book.”

Benchley grew up spending summers in the waters at Nantucket. His fascination for the ocean sharks in particular came early, but it wasn't after a 1971 documentary film Blue Water about a great white, and a separate book in the same year Blue Meridian that the ideas for Peter's novel began to coalesce. If you've read the book, you know that it and the movie are not wholly the same. The basis of the plot and characters of the book exist in the movie, but Benchley's ideas sprung from what could happen if this huge predator laid siege to this small resort community. Eighty to ninety percent of their income comes during their summers. What would be the loss? Would their be a cover-up? What about families? The questions kept coming to Benchley's mind, and so did the story upon the written page.

Upon its release, the reviews were decent. Hardcover sales were better than decent. The paperback went through the roof, thoroughly helped by the coming movie. One last line of the initial book review read, “Read 'Jaws', by all means read it, and see if you agree”. If you haven't read it, then I reiterate the word that were stated then. There are parts of the movie that I expected to find in the book, and parts of the book I'm surprised were left out of the movie. Both are exciting. Both are tense, and both are very good.
Profile Image for Kay ❦.
1,882 reviews585 followers
July 16, 2020
Watched Jaws when I was a kid, I'm forever damaged 😂. Jaws narrated by Erik Steele is exceptionally good. So exciting - every chapter, every character, everything about this book (maybe not the little shark part).
Love. This. Book.
I'm ready for Shark Week!!
Profile Image for Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede.
1,910 reviews763 followers
December 10, 2015
First I want to thank Steven Spielberg for ruining the fun with swimming in lakes as a child. because of course there could be sharks in lakes...in Sweden. Second, I want to thank him for letting Ellen Brody be a background character in the movie so the movie wasn't ruined by that F*****g bitch.

Jaws is one of my favorite movies. So it's kind of strange it has taken me this long to read the book. I remember that my brother had the book and I was curious about it, but I just never read it. I remember checking the beginning of the book to see if the beginning was just like the first scene from the movie. But I just never bothered reading it.

My eyes caught the cover of this book among my Ebooks when it was time to pick a book a couple of days ago and I thought, "what the heck, let's skip all the ARC's for now and read a book I have bought".

I enjoyed the book it was good. Well, most of it. I came to enjoy the mafia angle that the movie didn't have and it was interesting to get a deeper understanding of the economic consequences of closing the beaches. What I didn't like was the Ellen Brody drama. She has a great marriage, a loving husband, and three great sons, but she is still unhappy. And, then Matt Hopper arrives at the island. Not to spoil the book. But God dammit. That part of the book made me angry. So angry that I wished she had been on the damn boat at the end with Brody, Quint, and Hopper.

Despite being a good book can't I help to think that the movie is just so much better. It's not that long ago that I watched it, but I do feel like watching it again.

Profile Image for Carlos Carroll.
116 reviews268 followers
February 9, 2021
Bueno, tuve la gran fortuna de encontrarme con este tesorito en la biblioteca de mi tío, ni siquiera recordaba que él era un apasionado a la lectura. Por razones de mudanza, mi tío se vio obligado a deshacerse de una inmensa cantidad de libros y, pues antes de que lo hiciera con todos, yo salvé algunos ejemplares con más años que los que yo tengo; esta edición es de 1984 y no saben la alegría que me da tener libros tan antiguos y en buen estado (sí, tal vez sea una tontería).

Antes de entrar en esta historia, me dediqué a buscar reseñas hasta encontrar una que, por así decirlo, fuera completa. Pero fue bastante molesto leer desilusiones tipo: "No me gustó el libro porque pensé que sería mejor que la película". Yo, en realidad, nunca he visto la película, o no que yo recuerde, mas tampoco me cierro a la posibilidad de hacerlo.
A lo que voy es que, consciente o inconscientemente, siempre hablamos de qué tanto afecta su adaptación cinematográfica en nuestros previos o posts pensamientos del libro (algo así como lo que estoy haciendo justo ahora, je je).

Quería decir esto porque realmente no sabía que esperar del libro, no podía confiar en la mayoría de las reseñas porque siempre hablaban de la película, tampoco podía creer en la calificación de Goodreads, y mucho menos podía apoyarme en la película de Spielberg. Así que, un poco asustado, comencé a leerlo.

Los primeros capítulos fueron un gancho fuerte para mí, me atraparon por el cambio de perspectiva de presa a depredador y viceversa; también por la prosa tan impecable y acertada, y obviamente por la incertidumbre de saber qué pasará a continuación. Por lo general estas ediciones antiguas traen la letra muy pequeña, ahora sumen la cantidad de páginas de cada capítulo (que no pasaban de 30), ni siquiera la mala combinación de estos dos elementos me impidieron dejar el libro por un momento, siempre quería leer más. ¿Qué si el tiburón volvía a atacar? ¿Qué si se presentaba otra gran catástrofe? La duda y las ansias por conocer el final de la historia me carcomían.

Creo que es un libro que no falla en ningún momento, siempre y cuando no tengan la idea que todos tienen al leerlo: la película. Si es necesario, piensen que son dos historias diferentes, pero no hagan comparaciones; parece que eso no aporta placer a la lectura. Pero, bueno, si tengo que sacar algún punto malo, sería su final tan abrupto, que en sí cierra bien la historia pero lo deja a uno con las ganas de saber los sucesos que vienen después. Esto sería lo único malo.

Bien, como el libro me fue maravilloso y podría estar en un listado de mis favoritos, veré la película para saber por qué todo el mundo dice que es mucho mejor que el libro. Mi espectativa hacia la película es bastante alta y espero la supere o iguale.

Lo recomiendo un montón.
Profile Image for Dennis.
651 reviews252 followers
September 13, 2020
In 1974 Peter Benchley’s Jaws became a major bestseller and also paved the way for the first summer blockbuster in the history of cinema.
Both the novel and the movie scared the hell out of people. And some would never go swimming in the sea ever again.

Unfortunately it also made shark hunting a popular sport and the great white shark nowadays is considered as vulnerable.
It’s up for discussion how much of that is actually down to Benchley’s novel and I don’t really want to get into this. Because it is impossible to tell.

In any case, the novel is highly inaccurate in its depiction of the great white and Benchley later stated that it would be impossible for him to write it the same way again.

There are two major reasons for its inaccuracy. One is that, although Benchley did some extensive research, we just didn’t know all that much about the great white back then. Jaws also made oceanography way more popular and subsequently led to an increased knowledge of sharks.
The second reason is, despite Benchley mentioning the real life event of the 1916 shark attacks in New Jersey, this book is still fiction. And that’s what I took it for.
It’s a highly enjoyable fictional horror story.

That’s because the character of the fish (let's call him Bruce) is perfectly suited for a horror novel. Bruce gets described as unthinking and therefore unpredictable. He knows no fear. He is impossibly big and strong. A predator who’s only goal is to hunt, kill, feed. And he can not be found, he only ever finds you. Also, let’s face it, being a great white he just doesn’t exactly look like this:

description

And rather more like this:

description

All the scenes including Bruce are very suspensfully written and absolutely terrifying.
But there have to be humans also, and at one point we go about a hundred pages without encountering the shark. Generally that’s okay with me, because I don’t want to have one shark attack after the other until I don’t care anymore. Also, Benchley‘s prose flows quite nicely. It is not deep, mind you. But enjoyable to read.

But there are also some major problems.
None of the characters is very likeable. I liked Chief Brody in the movie. But I didn’t like him here. Some of his decisions seem very irresponsible. And not only because he gets pressured by Vaughan (another unlikeable character). I also didn’t like how he reacted towards some of the towns people.

His wife Ellen is an absolute bitch. Sorry for the language, but it’s true. There’s one chapter that’s especially horrifying. And unfortunately it also includes Hooper. The only character (apart from Meadows, maybe) that had the potential to be likeable. But that gets completely ruined in one terrible encounter with Ellen.

This leaves us with Quint, who was sensationally portrayed in the movie by Robert Shaw. Quint is not meant to be the most likeable character in the first place. He still might appeal to the reader in some sort or form. But then he started killing sharks for the sheer fun of it. And I’m not talking about Bruce here, which he was actually hired to kill. Just some random sharks he didn’t even try to catch. I know this may be a reasonable part of Quint's character. But it’s just not a likeable trait.

The other problem I had with this book is the ending. For all the suspense Benchley was able to build up, the very end felt kinda anticlimactic to me.

So, that’s 3.5 Stars in the end. I round up to 4. Because it was a qick and thrilling read. Really good entertainment most of the time. And that’s what I’m looking for in those kind of books.

Still, I prefer Spielberg’s blockbuster movie, which scared the hell out of me when I was a kid.
Sometimes people have to remember that it is more likely to get struck by lightning than it is to be attacked by a shark. But it’s not easy to do after watching Jaws. It is not easy folks.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Caston.
Author 8 books128 followers
April 18, 2021
This most recent time was my third time reading Jaws. I loved it then and I love this book still, despite a few petty issues I have with the story.

The first time I read it was when I was maybe twelve when I had to coax the parents and the school librarian to let me check it out from the restricted section of the library. At that point, I have this vague recollection of my 12 year old self emphatically thinking "WHY ISN'T THE SHARK EATING MORE PEOPLE!!!!" But I started having a love-hate-fear relationship with big bodies of water ever since. And it spurred my love of fish, sharks, ichthyology, you name it.

I think I was maybe 18 or 19 the second time I read it. Not a kid, but not really truly an independently functioning adult either. I know I understood more, but I also thinking, ugh, why is some of this stuff in here...I'm so bored, when does the shark turn up again???

Now as something several (okay a lotta) years older, I pick up on the undercurrents and the story-telling nuances I would have either not understood or glossed over until I got to the part where they're chumming/flirting with death. I appreciated the people that Benchley created with this story. The back stories and agendas and histories that drive character actions, those that are smart, and actions that are a bit less than smart and the downright stupid and malicious.

Most people have probably seen the movie and/or read the book. I love them both. And it was interesting to me to pick up the similarities, but more importantly the divergences between the book and the movie. Each, to me, was expertly crafted to serve its particular medium and story-telling method. For example, the amazing actor, Richard Dreyfus, plays Hooper. He does that role well. But here's Hooper's introduction in the book:

"This is Matt Hooper, Chief Brody."
The two men shook hands [Brody and Hooper]. "You're the fellow from Woods Hole," Brody said, trying to get a good look at himin the fading light. He was young--mid-twenties, Brody thought--and handsome: tanned, hair bleached by the sun. He was as tall as Brody, an inch over six feet, but leaner: Brody guessed 170 pounds, compared to his own 200.


Um... okay. So they're different. But that's cool, because the Hooper is a lot different in the two stories.

Anyway, the book clips along, but it does focus more on the people than the shark. So there is that. It's not the blood-soaked gore-fest you might think. It's more subtle than that. Because the shark ends up wreaking as much--if not more--havoc on the people on land with the fear and idea of its presence, than in the actual water.

I will undoubtedly read this book again in the future. I wonder what I'll think in 10 years. Who knows.

Bottom line, this is a great time-capsule-y type thriller. Parts of the language show its age. It's fast and easy to read. The ONLY and I mean ONLY reason why this isn't getting five stars from me is because the ending just felt like Bechley
Profile Image for Fabian {Councillor}.
229 reviews471 followers
November 2, 2016
Who doesn't know the famous Spielberg movie with a shark as the big bad guy who wreaks terror on an entire town, with three men going on a mission to kill the shark before he kills even more people?



Just one year before the release of the movie, Peter Benchley's novel Jaws was published which the movie was adapted from. (Personal confession here: I never watched the movie, so there was nothing I could compare the events in the novel with. I practically went into it blank apart from the knowledge of a shark being around in this tale.) It's fairly easy to summarize this book: There is no heavy or particularly complex plot; you get to see the shark early on, then you are introduced to some of the main characters who live in the town the shark has focused his attention on, then the shark reappears one hundred pages later, we have a dozen unnecessary subplots again which, of course, deserve no conclusion, then the shark stops by for a few pages again and the author cuts his own book off in the middle of a scene, leaving his reader hanging in the air.

Benchley started out on a very strong premise, delving into the shark's POV and making his reader believe that the shark is actually allowed to be one of the main characters. But after the second page, we would only meet him again through the eyes of other characters - and apart from that, it all went downhill pretty fast. The author did, however, succeed at drawing a picture of society in a small town by outlining how almost everyone in this town beared prejudices towards other people and acted in a judgmental way (with the one single exception being the shark who killed without making a difference between whether his victim is old or young, black or white, rich or poor). So at least you can say one good thing about sharks: they treat human beings equally.

The novel is more about the decline of a marriage than anything else, yet it was a shark which was originally promised in the blurb, and we didn't get to see that shark for major parts of the book. I know I'm probably in the minority with my opinion, but I didn't give a damn about Matt Hooper or Ellen or Chief Brody or who they had flings with and why they betrayed each other. Benchley didn't allow his characters any depth; he just created one-dimensional, unlikeable beings which happened to be present when a shark attacked at the shore of the smalltown. What's perhaps even worse: Benchley gave the villain role to the shark, made us want to see the shark get killed, but after the first half of the book, I found myself rooting for nobody but the shark. Remember: the book is called Jaws, the cover features a shark, the premise of the novel consists of a shark attack, and yet more than half of the book is about the police chief's frustrated wife who has nothing to do at all with the shark. This basically results in the book bearing the terror of a shark attack in the 10% of the novel when the animal is actually present, and being incredibly boring and suspenseless in the other 90%.

I did manage to finish the book in the course of a few hours, but that didn't mean I liked it at all. Sometimes a premise can be as promising as this one, but if the characters don't work and the dialogue is horrible ... then there is nothing to redeem that book. Which, of course, doesn't mean that other readers might not look at this book as an amazing piece of writing. The blurb of my copy promises that "the novel reaches a climax without having a rival when it comes to tension and drama". I'll say only one thing about this: Don't believe that blurb.
Profile Image for Sr3yas.
223 reviews996 followers
November 13, 2017
The best part about the book was the one time when the Great White Shark leaped from the ocean and shouted: Don't Hate The Player, Hate The Game!



Okay, that might not have happened.

Jaws tells the story of the people who live in Amity, a small seaside resort town which depends on summer tourists for its income. The town got a comparatively peaceful community, helmed by a gregarious mayor, a working-class police chief and a resourceful editor of the local newspaper. The town is having a hard time, but the hard-working people of the town are making the best of it.

Enter the Shark.



But wait! There is something even more sinister lurking around in Amity. Behold THE SOAP OPERA.



It's tough to create a perfect creature feature story. Most of the time, the writers focus on creatures/horror tropes and forget to build solid human characters. A perfect story is supposed balances human characters and creature fun perfectly, which Jaws was able to accomplish in the first act: A bloody introduction to action, a great spectrum of characters, and intriguing small-town politics.

But the middle portion of the story is less captivating... no, scratch that, it is boring compared to the opening act. At one time, this was how my brain was reacting to the story:

"Don't do that, girl! You can't have an affair now! "

"Oh, you sly dog. There is more to this than meets the eye, isn't there?."

"Family Drama, Gaaaaaah"

"Gangsters? What gangsters?"

"Wait, wasn't there supposed to be a shark somewhere in the novel?"


The final act is action filled, and all the shark attacks are fun to read, but at the end of the day, Shark gotta do what a shark gotta do, and it was the flaws of human players which held the story back.

And yup, the movie is much better than the book. Go Spielberg.
Profile Image for Lee  (the Book Butcher).
236 reviews60 followers
March 24, 2021
The book behind the blockbuster movie. Book follows it pretty well but i give Spielberg a lot of credit for the cultural phenomenon known as Jaws. Just found out my wife has "boycotted" the movie because of it ill fated effects on shark populations. You can imagine how awkward it was when i told her i was listening to Jaws. I had no idea she boycotted it!

I liked Martin Brody's character and thought him a well done common person hero! the author also does a good job with the location describing it well. He also populates the area with believable well fleshed out side characters. dropping you into a fully realized world. There is a POV switch to the shark during attacks that add suspense. you can hear the music in your head! you know THE movie music! what i did not like was Mathew Hooper and Ellen Brody's banging chapters. i get it, but did not like the bored housewife cheats on hardworking husband. Kind of old school misogyny. could have cut that part out completely IMO! result is a sort of drama thriller about a little vacation town terrorized by a shark!

Were gonna need a bigger review! Well maybe not chances are you know the plot and storyline. the movie is amazing and i would recommend the book to any fan of the movie.
Profile Image for Ginger.
721 reviews316 followers
October 7, 2021
I need a 1/2 star on this one because it feels like a 3.5 star book!

I’m glad to finally read Jaws!

I’ve loved this movie since I was a kid and it’s been a favorite for years.
In fact, the first time I saw it, I wouldn’t go into a swimming pool for 1/2 a year.
Yes, that sounds ridiculous, but I was 8 and suddenly had a epic fear of water and sharks!

After reading the book, I will have to say that the movie is better than the book.

Spoilers ahead. Enter at your own risk!

Pros of the movie:

✔️

✔️

✔️

✔️

Pros of the book:

✔️

✔️

What I wanted more in the book and movie:

MORE DEATHS!
If this shark is so bad ass, he needs to have at least 10 deaths or more on his criminal record. Hahaha

I'm really glad to read this book with one of my buddies on here. We’ve both wanted to read it for years and it seemed like a good opportunity to finally get to it!
Profile Image for Alex ☣ Deranged KittyCat ☣.
648 reviews402 followers
November 9, 2016
3.5 stars

description

Jaws was such a pleasant surprise for me. I always loved the movie, and the novel is so much more than just your average monster book.

I was completely amazed by the characters' depth, and how utterly unlikeable most of them are. Ellen Brody is some sort of modern Emma Bovary, while Harper is a jackass.
description
Not to mention the mayor who got involved with the wrong kind of people. And because of that, he is willing to let innocent people die for profit.

description

I like the omniscient point of view. This way we get to peek inside the shark's mind. Well, the author acknowledges it's not much of a mind, but it's still nice to know the fish's POV.

description

I listened to the audiobook and I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
1,985 reviews2,584 followers
March 24, 2016
3.5 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum http://bibliosanctum.com/2016/03/24/b...

A whole generation was scared off from swimming in the ocean by the Spielberg film based on this book. Embarrassingly, I have to say my own reaction was even more extreme. It was the early 90s and I must have been about 7 when I watched Jaws for the first time on VHS, and for an entire week I refused baths because I was terrified little great whites were going to pour out of the faucets and eat my face. I was an especially wimpy kid with an overactive imagination.

Anyway, fast forward more than ten years, because that was how long it took before I finally managed to screw up the courage to watch the movie again. By then, I was in college and had forgotten much of what happened in the story, so aside from my memories of a couple horrific iconic scenes that have forever burned themselves into the hard drives of my mind, in many ways it was almost like seeing it for the first time all over again. The difference was, I was no longer a child. And chalk it up to the impatience of my twenty-something-year-old self or the fact that the movie was already more than 30 years old by that point, I realized then how needlessly I’d hyped that experience up for myself. Watching Jaws through fresh eyes, it occurred to me that the movie was actually kind of…boring.

But don’t get me wrong; I’ve certainly come to love the film now that I’m older, because I obviously wouldn’t have bothered to check out the book it was adapted from if I wasn’t such a big fan. So, why have I rambled on and on about movie in this review so far when, really, I should have been discussing the Peter Benchley novel instead? Well, it’s because a lot of things because clearer to me after I read this. Let’s face it, barring a handful of edge-of-your-seat moments in the beginning of the film and of course John Williams’ classic score, things don’t really get going until Brody, Hooper and Quint finally end up on the ocean to hunt that big damn shark. Up until that point, much of it was terribly long and terribly dry, and if I thought that about the slow burn build-up of the movie, a part of me couldn’t help but wonder how I was going to make out with the source material.

Truth is, I ended up being pleasantly surprised. The book kept me thoroughly entertained from start to finish, and not only on account of the differences from the movie. It’s clear to me now that a faithful adaptation wouldn’t have worked at all, because of the much deeper, more profound themes in the novel—which I hadn’t expected at all. Benchley must also have realized that writing a horror/suspense-thriller book about a man-eating shark wasn’t going to be easy, if nothing else because every scene on land was going to require a little something extra. After all, no ocean means no shark, and no shark means no action. In other words, boring.

So, not surprisingly, actual scenes with the shark—or “the fish”, as it was called in this book—were written with this cold and almost detached attitude, leaving readers with no illusions as to its brutal nature, and when it kills, you can bet there’s no skimping on the blood and gore.

But hey, what about when the story isn’t focused on the shark? Well, as a matter of fact, plenty of other things happen, including Mayor Vaughn’s connections to the mafia, and a torrid affair between Brody’s wife and Hooper. Ellen Brody, who was barely an afterthought in the movie, is actually a central character in the novel with a major storyline surrounding her intense longing for the affluent life she led before she got pregnant by Brody, which is why she ended up marrying him and settling in Amity. The overall feel of the book is undeniably more melancholy and mature.

On the flip side, the darker tone meant that we lost much of the bromance that made the movie so enjoyable towards the end, and the characters were all so thoroughly unappealing that more than once I ended up rooting for the shark. The finale was also nowhere near as explosive or satisfying, so ultimately, I think it’s safe to say that while the book wins in some areas, it also loses spectacularly in others.

Still, I have to say reading Peter Benchley’s Jaws was more enjoyable than I thought it would be, especially for an older book that’s so inherently associated with its popular adaptation. I’m guessing if you’re interested in checking it out, it’s because you’re like me—a fan of the movie who was really curious to see what in the novel made it in, what got changed, and what got cut. If you want to get the full picture, this is definitely a must-read.
Profile Image for Tea Jovanović.
Author 411 books656 followers
April 29, 2013
I was young (in my teens) and foolish enough to watch the movie based on this book while on vacation on an island... You don't have to ask me if I skipped going to sea for few days... :)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,085 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.