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on 10 June 2012
Firstly, Is it horror? Despite the protestations of one of my dearest friends, "What's scary about a big fish?" I would respectfully submit to you that yes, Jaws is in fact a horror. If you are of the opinion that a masked man stalking teenagers in smalltown America, picking them off one by one is horror; then a man-eating shark preying on unsuspecting bathers off the coast of smalltown America is no different.

For me, if there was a physical embodiment of fear, it's a shark. This is an absolutely primal fear of an animal whose basic design has not evolved or changed in millions of years. Sharks are effectively living fossils, an apex predator so perfectly acclimated to its ecosystem that they have survived for million of years at the top of their food chain. So yes, `Jaws' is a horror novel.

Released in 1974, `Jaws' hit the bestseller lists and stayed there for nearly a whole year.

The author (Peter Benchley) drew his inspiration for this novel from a number of real-life incidents, most notably the 1964 landing of a 2000kg Great White Shark caught off the coast of New York state and the infamous Jersey Shore attacks of 1916.

As stated previously, `Jaws' is the story of a small American coastal town, reliant on summer tourist trade that is preyed upon by a man-eating Great White Shark; and the subsequent hunting of said shark by the town's police chief, an Ichthyologist and the local seasoned shark hunter. Many will already be familiar with the Spielberg film adaptation but I would suggest to you all that the novel is by far the superior of the two.

`Jaws' the novel provides far greater depth to the characters involved with the backstory to Ellen Brodie and the Chief's marriage, the Mayor's shady dealings and other aspects that I choose not to reveal to those who are not familiar with the book. As opposed to the film, the book offers significantly different relationship dynamics for the lead protagonists and a palpable feeling of tension on board the boat that viewers of the film will already be familiar with. Overall, there is a generally darker tone throughout the book and an ending that is poles apart from the distinctly Hollywood finale of the movie.

This is one of my shorter reviews but I fail to see the point in a book review that simply gives the whole plot of a novel away, effectively ruining it for any potential reader!

In my opinion, `Jaws' is an incredibly satisfying read that easily drew me into the world created by Benchley. My only warning with this book would be to save it for dry land; this is not a book you want to be reading on the beach!
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Peter Benchley's Jaws is one of those books I kind of forgot existed, thanks in part to the brilliant film overshadowing it. I saw the film at the cinema a few months ago and it reminded me what a great story it is. The book was 99p on Kindle a few weeks ago so I bought it straight away. I'm glad I read it but I think the screenplay was better and I'm sad to say it isn't a book that has stuck in my head.

I didn't like Brody and Hooper's characterisation in the novel, I thought Brody's wife was insufferable and that there wasn't enough shark action. The beginning started off well with the first shark fatality, but the middle section lagged and I was willing something to happen. Benchley had a tendency to ramble in this book, and to be honest I could have done without it. Saying that, the latter part of the book was tense and exciting and I could finally see where the film got its quality from.

Benchley's knowledge of the sea and great white sharks made for interesting reading, and I liked learning more about this species and it's feeding patterns etc. I'm personally quite terrified of the thought of meeting a great white (I never go near water so that won't happen!) as I'm sure many other people are. Jaws is basically a nightmare of a book and one that would put people off swimming for life!

While I enjoyed elements of this book, and the last quarter in particular, I'm not sure it's one I'd immediately recommend as a random read. I do prefer the film and it's genuinely clever script, though the original novel is an interesting read for fans of the big screen adaptation.
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on 31 January 2016
Really like the book in depth and the shark behaving as the books describes. Jaws, being shown on TV so many times, I loved the film to when it first came out although like a great many 1970's classics, being repeated so many times takes the fun out of watching the film. I enjoy having red the book from the beginning from Chrissie Watkins the first victim to the boy on the floating sun bed to they go out to sea to finally try to kill it.
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on 30 January 2014
Jaws is one of my all time favourite movies and a friend recommended I read the book. I thought this book was fantastic, slightly different from the Jaws movie but well written and gripping. If your a fan of the movie this book wont disappoint.
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on 6 March 2010
Peter Benchley's 'Jaws' is a book very much of its time: there are some characters that resonate the recent history of America (Hendricks, a Vietnam veteran with obliviously homophobic undertones- a role significantly reduced in the film). There is also a somewhat mysoginist view of female sexuality (a discussion about sexual fantasies in the book focuses shockingly on Ellen Brody's apparent desire to be raped- that's no way to flirt)... but if you're going to read 'Jaws' for informed social commentary, you've probably picked up the wrong book.

When Benchley isn't concerning himself with domestic issues, class conflict and shady political dealings (something he is clearly interested in exploring in Part Two), he excels at constructing taught, tense sequences that move at such a thunderous pace they are actually heart-pounding. The opening sequence is much what you would expect having seen the film, as is the inevitable finale, but the difference between this book and the unsurpassable movie that it inspired is largely in the characters. A major supporting character is entirely excised from the film (journalist Harry Meadows), the touching connection Brody has with his sons is absent from the book, and Hooper is an entirely different animal altogether.

There are some incosistencies within the book; in the first two acts, Benchley seems unsure whether to follow the shark or the effects it has on the small town leading into an entirely unnecessary and uncomfortable emotional betrayal (it's here that Benchley shows weakness) and also giving too little focus to a subplot about Mayor Larry Vaughan's shadowy mafia connections (perhaps something better left hinted at rather than exposed- I don't entirely understand the point of the cat sequence at all). The book is quite largely devoid of any true wit, something the screen version has in spades. But in the characters of Brody and Quint, Benchley has created something that the screenwriters couldn't avoid. Quint is very much the Ahab seadog we see in the film (if not quite as developed as Robert Shaw's outstanding turn) and Brody is still the conciencious everyman trying to do the right thing, even though it terrifies him.

The third act is rewarding, and equally as gripping as the film's- but it's that screenplay (co-written by Benchley with Carl Gottlieb) that just outdoes it. Benchley was right to make changes for the adaptation, it's simply better. That's not to say that this book is not worth reading. On it's own merits it's a taught little thriller, with some stomach turning depictions of the shark's numerous attacks, and I really relished some of the elements that didn't make the final cut of the film. If unfaithful adaptations are bad, then Spielberg's 'Jaws' would be an awful film. Sometimes changes need to be made, and I think that these two different versions of 'Jaws' should be appreciated in their own right. The novel could've been a little leaner, a little more to the point- but it's those diversions that add to the palpable tension and create an atmosphere of unrest and incredible power in what has to be one of the most grippingly cinematic conclusions to a book I've ever read. Part Three of 'Jaws' doesn't waste a word, leading me to suspect that some of what preceded it was just a bit of padding. Still, when you finally get out on that boat it's just flawless.
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on 24 December 2013
I haven't read this since it was released, and personally I found it has dated a bit. It is also the unusual case where the film is perhaps more famous than the book, and we are more familiar with the character alterations of the actors who play Brody, Hooper and Quint (although I find it impossible to not imagine Roy Scheider still as the chief of police in Amity).
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on 27 December 2013
a good read, I read this book when it came out originally,I wanted to know if it still had the same effect on me as when I was 15 years old .It didnt, but thats probably asking too much! Still a great read.
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on 23 January 2015
Fantastic film. For anyone who has never watched it but grew up with the knowledge or only saw it when you were young, there's a lot more to it than just a big shark that eats people. the acting and story is fantastic. nothing like the book, but equally as good.
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I am not judging it by high literary standards, but 'Jaws' was made into arguably the first Blockbuster summer film and changed the way that films were made: a big summer hit with mass appeal. It is effectively rather than stylishly written, well plotted with characters more nuanced than in the film, where Hooper and Brody get along famously after their initial mutual wariness. The narrative is basic: danger menaces community, hero/official knows, menace strikes again, hero Brody has to decide whether to Take Measures and imperil the season's trade or keep quiet/business-as-usual but at a fearful possible cost. Recognise the plot? Indeed, it's that nice old Henrik Ibsen, whose 'An Enemy of the People' the story follows. Throw in a REALLY NASTY shark, the ripest of hams as a sea-dog who they hire (Quint, marvellously overplayed by Robert Shaw in the film) and you have a story that'll make you not want to swim in the sea again. Heck, it made me scared to go to Cirencester's open air pool! Very enjoyable
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on 14 December 2014
I've read this novel many years ago and am a great fan of the film. Really enjoyed re-reading this as it is well written, simply but effectively with good characterisation and setting, and unless I am imagining it, slightly influenced by John Steinbeck?
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