Most people have seen the movie Jaws but haven’t read the novel that the movie was based on by Peter Benchley. If you are a fan of the movie, then I definitely recommend the novel because a lot of stuff was removed for the movie. Check out our summary of the novel below and why you should give it a read!
At a seaside resort town of Amity, located in Long Island, New York, a great white shark kills a tourist at night while she was skinny dipping in the water. Once her body is recovered and her death confirmed to be from a shark attack, Police chief Martin Brody orders Amity’s beaches to be closed. His order is overruled however by the mayor, Larry Vaughn and the attack is hushed up with the help of the editor of the newspaper.
The residents of Amity rely on tourism and if the beaches are closed, most of the people living in Amity won’t be able to pay their bills. A few days after the first shark attack, another shark attack occurs near the shore. That leads to the authorities of Amity taking action and hiring a local fisherman to kill the great white shark.
As the tourists start to arrive, the pressure is on Brody to keep them safe from the shark attacks as well as deal with the mayor. But that is not all. Brody’s wife feels restless and misses her old affluent lifestyle before marrying Brody. That leads her to capture her youth and leads to Brody wondering if she is cheating on him.
I was once told that journalists don’t usually translate to great writers and that is true for Peter Benchley. The way journalists write a story is rigid, factual-based and formulaic. They lack the creative freedom of writers and that makes sense because journalism follows strict guidelines which Benchley seems to do often.
The story is decent but it lacks character development and it is honestly a weird story. It is about a shark but also has an weird subplot that feels at odd with the whole book. Benchley wrote the novel after American publishing company Doubleday commissioned him to in 1971. They made sure to have it included in many book clubs and it become a huge hit, spending 44 weeks on the bestseller list.
The novel was inspired by Benchley reading a news report about a fisherman catching a 4,550-pound great white shark near the coast of Long Island in 1964. Later in his life, Benchley was regretful for the tone of the novel and of increasing the fear and false beliefs associated with sharks. That led him to become an advocate for marine conservation.
This is not the greatest writing but it is an interesting story nonetheless. Benchley did a decent job on his first novel but he was commissioned to write it and that most likely forced the book to be as rigid as it is. It won’t change your life but definitely worth checking it out and seeing what the hype was about. Happy reading!