BOOK REVIEW: Jaws by Peter Benchley

To mark the 70th anniversary of Pan paperbacks, twenty classic Pan titles are being re-issued in homage to the golden age of paperback publishing and with new cover designs in brilliant technicolour.

Peter Benchley is one of my favourite authors of all time. His books explore the world around us; with many featuring the sea and more importantly the dangers that lurk on, beneath or near the water. His novel ‘Rummies’ was a fabulous book that broke the norm of his catalogue of work and endeared him more to my heart and proved he has the chops to cut it with the best writers out there, so if you get a chance check that out too.

But after seventy years of giving us an array of astounding fiction; Pan Macmillan decided to release some of their biggest titles for the consumption of all bibliophiles around the world and opening the eyes of a new audience who may not have read them the first time around. I was thrilled to see that they decided to include in their anniversary Peter Benchley’s ‘Jaws’.

I have to admit now that I am a huge fan of ‘Jaws’ I read it as a young boy, watched the film, which is one of my favourite films of all time (judge me for my film choices if you will, but for now we are talking about the book) – I think when I read the book as a child, it was a little lost on me, I didn’t fully understand the deeper context to which the book alludes to, I was more concerned that it didn’t follow the rhythms of the film, and in my adolescents thought the film was much better, a statement I had made countless times, but have since had to eat my words.

I re-read Jaws last year, and it blew me out of the water. I knew the story, knew the eccentric bunch of characters within, knew the ebb and flow of the story; but now I managed to see the sheer brilliance of Benchley’s work. One part of the book in particular that is strikingly different from the film adaptation is the relationship with Brody’s wife and Hooper; which is hardly touched upon in the film, but in the book it had me crying out with anger, had me enraged that she could be doing this to Brody – it left me resenting her and showcased Benchley’s ability to get right under your skin and to cause this type of reaction, shows the brilliance of his writing.

Benchley had the ability to give a personality to the shark, as strange as that sounds, it’s no mean feat to give a voice to an animal that doesn’t speak; the scenes where the shark is stalking, lurking or attacking people are exquisitely accomplished and help the reader gain an insight and feel something for the shark. You can’t help but be pulled into its quest and what it will do to survive. Benchley was an advocate for marine life and with ‘Jaws’ and his masterful execution of the story, helping the reader get into the mind and motives of the shark reveals that it is not just a mindless killing machine, but is a ferocious predator in its natural environment and will protect itself when called upon, so we should probably where we can stay out of its bloody way.

When getting the new edition of ‘Jaws’ from Pans seventieth anniversary I was thrilled to see this iconic book, given the credit it deserves with another striking book cover to add to its burgeoning  catalogue of eye catching designs. The re-design leans heavily on the original cover; with its iconic bright blue sea and red title. But gone is the rampaging rising shark and distressed swimmer and in a stroke of minimalistic genius all that can be seen of the ferocious beast is a small blue fin coming out of the water and encroaching on the W in Jaws.

If you have never read Jaws before, what the hell have you been doing! I’m kidding. Honestly. But if you haven’t read Jaws before I would highly recommend purchasing a copy of this new edition from Pan Macmillan – not only is it a classy re-design, the book itself is a phenomenal piece of writing in my humble opinion. Also those who may have already read ‘Jaws’ why not dig further into this fabulous writers works.

Also check out the other brilliant titles that have been given a face-lift with Pans Seventieth Anniversary editions here.

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Jaws is published by Pan Macmillan and you can purchase a copy here.

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Peter Benchley

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Peter Bradford Benchley (May 8, 1940 – February 11, 2006) was an American author and screenwriter. He is known for the bestselling novel Jaws and co-wrote its subsequent film adaptation with Carl Gottlieb. Several more of his works were also adapted for cinema, including The DeepThe IslandBeast, and White Shark.

Later in life, Benchley came to regret writing such sensationalist literature about sharks, which he felt encouraged excessive fear and unnecessary culls of such an important predator in ocean ecosystems and became an outspoken advocate for marine conservation.

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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