Who wrote this book and when?
Peter Benchley published this in 1974.
Has there been a film version?
Yes, Steven Spielberg ring a bell? Unfortunately, most people nowadays just know about the movie and not the book.
Who are the important characters?
Sheriff Martin Brody – the sheriff of the small island town of Amity
The fish – a massive great white shark terrorizing aforementioned island town
Matt Hooper – a marine biologist and rich boy, a former acquaintance of Ellen Brody’s
Quint – a professional deep-sea fisherman
Ellen Brody – Sheriff Brody’s younger and beautiful wife, formerly a socialite
Vaughan – the mayor of Amity, involved in some shady business which is pressuring him to keep Amity’s beaches open
Harry Meadows – the editor of the local Amity paper, one of Martin’s closest friends
What’s it about?
At the beginning of the summer season, a young woman who engages in some night swimming disappears. The following afternoon, some of her remains wash up on shore, brutally ripped apart. The local sheriff, Martin Brody, recognizes the work of a shark and closes the beaches. His friend and the editor of the local paper, Harry Meadows, contacts a marine biologist with the information and it is ascertained that a great white shark is the only possible fish able to do that much damage.
Immediately, a struggle begins between Brody and the mayor – Vaughan. Brody insists on closing the beaches to protect swimmers while Vaughan fights to keep them open for the tourist season essential to the life of the island. When the marine biologist, Matt Hooper, shows up and begins secretly courting Brody’s wife, he is strained nearly to the breaking point. After several more attacks and gruesome deaths, Brody and Hooper enlist the help of Quint – a rugged fisherman, in order to track and kill the great white.
Why is this book a classic/bestseller?
Mainly because of the movie, which was made only a year after the book was released. It’s a wonderful horror story and makes you think twice about hopping into the ocean for a quick swim.
Do I recommend you read this book?
Yes – it’s so much more terrifying than the movie. The shark is just a heck of a lot scarier.
How did this book make my list?
I saw it at the library and didn’t know it was a novel. Well, I knew from watching the movie and seeing “Peter Benchley’s ‘Jaws’,” but it never occurred to me to read it.
Has it won any awards?
No, I don’t think so.
“[Falling in the water with Jaws would] be like falling out of an airplane without a parachute and hoping you’ll land in a haystack. The only thing that’d save you would be God, and since He pushed you overboard in the first place, I wouldn’t give a nickel for your chances.” – p 273
This book is significantly different than the movie. More people are killed by the shark, for one. Also – the movie completely cuts out the relationship between Hooper and Ellen Brody.
Another fun factoid – this movie is the one that started the concept of the summer blockbuster. It was the first one to make millions during the summer months which were originally considered a dead time to release films. It was such a hit that two years later, George Lucas did the same thing with “Star Wars.”
I love the movie version of this book, let me just put that out there. However – this book is so much more amazing than the movie. Maybe it’s the fact that my imagination was available to augment the action rather than just having visuals provided for me. The shark was ever so much more terrifying. He was smarter in the book than in the movie – probably just because the technology back then was limited. In the book, the shark anticipated Quint’s attacks and counteracted them. He would also swim alongside the boat silently, sideways, and just watch the people on board without them knowing it.
One aspect I didn’t enjoy with this novel was the affair between Ellen and Hooper. I didn’t consider it necessary to the plot and it nearly detracted from it enough to be annoying. Fortunately, the shark is frightening enough to keep the story engrossing. I read this entire book in two days, and could hardly put it down. Excellent.