[Click the cover below to check it out! If you don’t see a book cover below it’s probably ad-blocker settings]
[How gorgeous is this art though? James Jean‘s work is incredible]
“Elisa is a mute, isolated woman who works as a cleaning lady in a hidden, high-security government laboratory in 1962 Baltimore. Her only friends are those whom society also considers to be misfits. Her life changes forever when she discovers the lab’s classified secret — a mysterious, scaled creature from South America that lives in a water tank. As Elisa develops a unique bond with her new friend, she soon learns that its fate and very survival lies in the hands of a hostile government agent and a marine biologist. “
First and foremost, it should be emphasized that to anyone interested in the book because they liked the movie, this is definitely more than a novelization of the movie itself. More of a companion piece, really.
According to how this story was created, Daniel Krause and Guillermo Del Toro were sitting down to discuss another project together, and started to discuss the idea that Kraus had for the Shape of Water story that he’s had since he was a teenager. It was decided that they would co-author the story. The whole of the story was brainstormed from Kraus’ original concepts and writings into the movie, but essentially most of the details that had to be cut from the movie were kept in the book.
Not that there was anything wrong with the movie, I saw it before I read the book and thought it was very charming and beautiful. I’m a fan of Del Toro in general – but the book has wayyy more story to bring to the table than the movie covers. I really wish more of what was in the book was in the movie, and I feel like there were multiple scenes in the movie that could have been cut to make room for what the book/original story had to offer.
I don’t want to go into too much detail without major spoilers, but some of the major aspects that the book has that the movie doesn’t are;
-The discovery, travel, and capturing of ‘The Devonian’ [the creature]. His [we’re going to call him a he since the book makes a point that he’s a male, and calling him an ‘it’ only seems to come from the people who refuse to acknowledge him as an intelligent being] origin is somewhere deep within the Amazon, and many people died trying to find/capture it. The book goes into some of the culture surrounding it as well, how he is worshiped as a god [because he seems to be one] and is a very ancient creature.
-How Richard Strickland [the evil/racist/sexist/rapey colonel in the movie] is more than just ‘super generic but super evil military guy.’ At first I thought the story was trying to really drive home that Strickland was a good guy deep down and it was starting to really be a turnoff for me, but by the end it’s definitely not that. But it does 100% give his character a ton more depth than he has in the movie. It has a lot to do with his military time before the events of the story, especially as he was apart of the capture mission for the Devonian, but you realize about halfway through he’s a very broken man that has pretty much decided to use his PTSD to make him a very bad person, and you find out that he’s much more under the thumb of other military personnel hat the movie only vaguely hinted at.
-A bit more background information on Elisa’s origins of being an orphan and a bit of her life before the start of the story.
-A whole subplot dedicated to Strickland’s wife, Lainie. In the movie we see her only a few times, mostly a pretty aggressive sex scene, and she has barely any dialogue. However in the book, she’s pretty essential and we find out a lot of what goes on behind the scenes with Strickland’s home life through her. Lainie is so much more than the trophy wife she’s made out to be, and it’s pretty sad to see that so little of her except that is all that exists in the movie. She’s a woman realizing that her husband is a broken and changing man, and not changing for the better. She’s also a woman who is slowly learning how to stand on her own two feet, and start to be independent. She realizes she wants more to her life than just being a mother and a wife, especially a wife to a man who insists that she doll up every day, including wearing high heels to even just do housework, to please him. The more she does to stray away from the standards Richard has placed on her, the more he finds her disgusting and mistreats her. You actually find out in the book that her story is more deeply intertwined with the other protagonists, and some of her actions also directly cause changes in the story.
-More background info on Dr. Bob/Dmitri Hoffstetler, the Russian spy/scientist who also wants to save the Devonian. Mostly his work being a spy/the Russian side of things.
-More details about Giles and Zelda, friends and fellow misfits of Elisa’s, including how they all got to know each other, and deeper information about their friendship with Elisa.
-Parts of the book are actually from the perspective of the Devonian. It kinda confused me at first because it starts randomly, but once you realize what these parts are, they’re both super interesting, and honestly kind of cute.
Ultimately, I really liked the book. It was definitely an easy read, but it was nice. It kinda kept everything flowing nicely throughout. I’m going to go watch the movie again to review the story again now with this to add some perspective, and I’m sure it’ll make more sense for some of the decisions made in the movie and by the characters.
I think it could very much be it’s own standalone story if you’ve ever never head of the movie/haven’t watched it, or maybe even if you didn’t like the movie all that much. Not in a negative way, but the book is less… whimsical? It doesn’t have a lot of the very ‘Del Toro’ moments that are specific to the movie. Some of that is good, and some is honestly just fine without it. It’s also not completely devoid of that whimsy and magic, [how can it be, being as it’s a love story between a woman and a fish-man…?] it just seems to be a bit more grounded. But for those that have seen the movie and liked it, then I definitely would suggest and I think most people would enjoy the depth added to certain characters and aspects of the story.
Also, there are multiple illustrations within the pages of the book and they’re just as gorgeous as the cover art.
I give The Shape of Water 5/5 Suspiciously Gill-Like Neck Scars
Staring into headlight eyes turned angry by the V-Shaped emblem between them. Trailing his fingers across the Cheshire grins of front grilles, those hundreds of slippery fangs.
Her daughter’s bag, too, is bursting, but she doesn’t leak a tear. Lainie wonders if it’s because she’s a girl and has learned that the masculine maxim of never running away from trouble is *bullshit.*
She looks up at her mother, eyes dry and perceptive. The girl has always paid heed to the lessons of picture books. Running is why animals have feet, why birds have wings, and why fish have fins.