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Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916 Paperback – May 21, 2002
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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For the skill with which Mr. Capuzzo captured the mind of America at a very specific time, I might have given the book four stars, but the book seemed to dwindle toward the end. The rogue shark killed a very small fraction of the number of people dying daily from polio and certainly an infinitesimal number when compared with the casualties of the on-going war. And of all of these dangers, sharks were avoidable. Yet all of at least Eastern America was in a panic about the sharks and all "manly" men within reach of a coast were out hunting and killing sharks. When the book described one of these hunts, I wasn't even certain that it was the rogue shark that had been killed until pages later. Perhaps Capuzzo's point was that the particular shark mattered less than the danger and excitement of the hunt, but the effect, at least for me, was anti-climactic. Perhaps Mr. Capuzzo treated his material this way on purpose, once again to shift his subject matter from the shark to the mind of America, but in doing so, he undermined much of the tension and suspense of the book as a whole.
Capuzzo gives us the history behind Benchley's "Jaws," as well as the habits/life cycle of sharks. For anyone interested in the science and biodiversity of the sea, the shark chapters are enough reason to buy the book. Add to those the state of American science in oceanography during the early 1900s, and we have more interesting ideas, including that people didn't believe sharks were dangerous to man until the 1916 attacks--at least in America along the Eastern shore.
Another fascinating part of the book is the sociological commentary on the sport of swimming in the ocean. I knew that the Romantics prized swimming (Lord Byron swam the Dardenelles), but assumed everybody swam. The beach is a fundamental part of my family's traditions. Capuzzo takes us from the sheltered "bathing wagons" of modesty for women to the scandalous baring of ANKLES to the new swimming costumes that freed the arms along with sundry other comments on the role of journalism and sensationalism.
This is an educational summer read as long as it doesn't give you a new phobia about SHARKS off the coast of all beaches.
I would recommend this book to readers who like non-fiction, sharks and information about life in 1916.
Most recent customer reviews
My mother told me this story a long time ago. When I saw it on Amazon, I had to read it. Very interesting.