Probably the most famous book about a fish.
I read this before I saw the film and found it to be very dark, much more than the film, which introduced a slightly comedic character to obviously lighten things up.
The story opens first with a fish, still in the water, and an explanation of how it breathes. The story proper begins with a few mutilated bodies on the beach, graphically described, and no one is sure what has caused them. There is no sighting of the shark until at least half way through (after the attacks), leading to a wonderful build up of tension and suspense.
There are lengthy details about the anatomy of the shark, their patterns of behaviour, feeding and how dangerous they can be. This adds to the fear and menace of the tale and does a good job in doing so. The shark attacks are violent and gory and naturally spread a great deal of panic and terror through the people who live in the small town.
The two main themes focus on how people respond to the threat of the shark and also the fact that it is a predator. This is also emphasised by predatory humans such as criminal tourists, the mayor's dealing with the Mafia and an instance of adultery, which shows a double standard in the attitudes to predatory behaviours.
I was always on the side of the shark. Whether this is because I am an animal lover or because there are no likeable characters in the book, I am not sure. But the story is an easy read even though the plot is not very intricate, and there are some elements of misogyny and racism that are quite unpalatable, but this is how society was then (1970s). The ending isn't as explosive as it is in the film and the middle tends to be a bit rambling, yet I did enjoy the book.
Published by Pan February 1974; Reprints Edition 5 July 2012
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