Book Review: “Jaws” by Peter Benchley

As I have discussed in my posts about visiting Martha’s Vineyard and watching the play “The Shark Is Broken“, “Jaws” is my favourite movie. I have probably watched it well over 100 times – most recently only last week. But, I had never read the original novel until this week when I received it as a present.

I have to admit that I went into reading the book with low expectations. I knew that the book is quite different to the movie – the movie used elements of the book as inspiration. This is not a book of the movie (as sometimes happens when someone goes back and novelises the movie – I have read such books before for “Robocop” and one of the James Bond films (I think), for example). Why nobody has given “Jaws” this treatment I don’t know as I’m pretty sure it would sell millions. Just as the original book has done. And rightly so.

Another reason for my low expectations is that it is said that the “Jaws” book is one of the examples if where the movie IS better than the book, while the common belief is that the opposite is usually true for most movie adaptations of books. This is something that has been discussed also on the Jaws For A Minute podcast that I have been listening to.

But, I enjoyed the book. Perhaps it helps that I read a weak book (in my view) recently, so anything better than that was going to seem good. Perhaps it’s just that I’m such a Jaws fan that I was always going to find something that I like about it.

Yes, this book is not the book of the movie. Yes, I prefer the movie. But, if you judge the book on its own merits, it’s not a bad book – bad books don’t get turned into movies (as far as I know). Do I like the book’s versions of Brody, Hooper, and Quint? No. But treating them as different people from the movie who just happen to share the same names, I could get past that issue and enjoy the story for what it was.

I enjoyed seeing what elements of the book remained in the movie – with certain scenes or lines remaining (not always said by the same person) or clearly influencing other elements of the movie. There were even some aspects of the book which I think should have been included in the movie (the best example being what happens to the barrels at one point). But, without a doubt, there were many elements from the movie that I missed – particularly the lack of Quint’s connection to sharks via the Indianapolis. It makes you wonder where some of the additional storylines came from. I’m glad that the movie is much more about the three characters and not the shark and we get to learn more about them on screen and that they are so different to the novel. I’m also glad that the movie had a much better, clearer ending than the book which just seemed too rushed and odd.

As much as I could, I tried to judge the book on the basis of when it was written, rather than the world now – there is language and comments in there which most publishers probably would not allow these days & some of what is there probably wasn’t ever necessary. However, overall, I enjoyed it. I will read it again one day. But I won’t read it as often as I re-watch the movie (as quick and easy as it was to read). The book’s greatest contribution is not to the literary world, but rather what it helped to create in the form of the movie.

Click here to see my other posts related to “Jaws“.

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