This historical account of the July 1916 shark attacks on the New Jersey shore has a familiar yet homespun flavor. Michael Capuzzo has taken a horrifyingly true story and personalized the events in such a way to make the listener (reader) feel a "you are there" kind of nostalgia. The world of Beach Haven and Spring Lake, New Jersey had come into its own as the resort of choice for wealthy Philadelphians looking to retreat to the Jersey shore for the summer. However, swimming was not yet an activity relished by the leisure class and was reserved for the more plebeian members of society.
The peaceful summer season was marked by stories that were primarily focused on the shore sightings of a great white shark who was taking the lives of swimmers at a steady pace. The great white shocked everyone further by killing swimmers in a fresh water creek when she became trapped after a low tide. This horrifying problem became national news, often taking the front page and eclipsing the oncoming World War. The President of the United States was alerted and asked to send federal troops to kill the shark and end the terror of July 1916.
Len Cariou's succinct dialog and clear, concise style of reading adds another dimension to CLOSE TO SHORE, making the book even more memorable in its detail. Although this book is primarily about the great white shark attacks on the Jersey Shore, the reader comes away with a flavor of the times just before the eventful summer of 1917 and the First World War, when America was divided by economics and differing social mores. Capuzzo opens the door to the times and lets us glimpse the dichotomy of events that shaped America during that important summer of 1916.
Reviewed by Marge Fletcher on May 8, 2001
Close To Shore: A True Story of Terror in An Age of Innocence