All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Thoughts On: The Shape Of Water by Guillermo del Torro & Daniel Kraus

on March 23, 2018

The Shape Of Water
Guillermo del Torro & Daniel Kraus
Pan Macmillan
2018, 314p
Purchased personal copy

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

It is 1962, and Elisa Esposito—mute her whole life, orphaned as a child—is struggling with her humdrum existence as a janitor working the graveyard shift at Baltimore’s Occam Aerospace Research Center. Were it not for Zelda, a protective coworker, and Giles, her loving neighbor, she doesn’t know how she’d make it through the day.

Then, one fateful night, she sees something she was never meant to see, the Center’s most sensitive asset ever: an amphibious man, captured in the Amazon, to be studied for Cold War advancements. The creature is terrifying but also magnificent, capable of language and of understanding emotions…and Elisa can’t keep away. Using sign language, the two learn to communicate. Soon, affection turns into love, and the creature becomes Elisa’s sole reason to live.

But outside forces are pressing in. Richard Strickland, the obsessed soldier who tracked the asset through the Amazon, wants nothing more than to dissect it before the Russians get a chance to steal it. Elisa has no choice but to risk everything to save her beloved. With the help of Zelda and Giles, Elisa hatches a plan to break out the creature. But Strickland is on to them. And the Russians are, indeed, coming.

I forget where I first heard about this but I was interested in seeing the movie before it won an Oscar for Best Picture. And when I knew there was a book coming out, I knew I’d definitely be reading it. I talk about seeing movies but then I almost never get around to it. But books? Books I have a much more realistic chance with.

The Shape Of Water is a lot of things. It’s a sci-fi/fantasy novel, it’s a love story, it’s a sad indictment on the orphanage system, a look at low level incomes and tedious work for poor wages. Elisa Esposito works a graveyard cleaning shift at a place called Occam Aerospace Research Centre in Baltimore. Mostly her work involves the same thing day in and day out – cleaning rooms specifically assigned to her on a sheet, until one day a room appears on her list that she’s never had before and Elisa sees something very unusual. But even after the strange creature wounds one of its captors, Elisa isn’t afraid.

Elisa learns to communicate with the creature using sign language and the lure of boiled eggs. She spends quite a lot of time with him, sneaking into the room where his tank is kept, ignoring the potential dangers that could come if people found out what she is doing. Elisa has already drawn the attention of Richard Strickland, the military man who was tasked with the job of tracking the creature in the Amazon, subduing it and bringing it back to the United States for study. Richard is a Vietnam veteran with a troubled past, haunted by the events of the war and the lengths he went to in order to please his superior officer and follow direct orders. Richard sees the amphibious man as his ticket out of the hold that superior officer still has over him and he’s willing to do anything in order to see that it plays out the way he wants it to. One of the biologists working in the lab wants to study the creature in depth, to learn from it but Strickland’s orders are different.

Strickland is an interesting character – not a likeable one, hacking his way through native tribes in the jungle, murdering whatever crosses his path. But I could almost sympathise with his desire to be free, to be away from the control of this mysterious person that the reader only really ever experiences on the other end of a phone, or as thoughts/orders in Strickland’s head as he looks back on that horrible moment in Vietnam and ruminates on his orders. He struggles with the normality of life once he’s back in America, his wife and the kids that he barely knows, who have grown used to getting along without him in a time when PTSD wasn’t really a recognised, understood thing. Strickland is easy to pigeonhole and he is an asshole but there was some care taken to give him a bit more depth than just that.

But it’s about Elisa and the connection she forges with this amphibious man and what she’s willing to risk in order to prevent harm from coming to him (or really, prevent more harm from coming to him, because there’s already been plenty done). There’s no denying that the creature (he doesn’t have a name I don’t think, but it’s really annoying trying to think of ways to refer to him) is capable of inflicting a lot of pain but it takes Elisa very little time to win his trust and demonstrate that she may look similar to the others and work in the same place, but she’s not interested in hurting him or making do things. She cares about him, about his wellbeing and he has the capability to understand not only when he’s being assisted but also when he’s made a mistake, and how to go about fixing it. In Elisa’s apartment, after they rescue him from the research facility, the more human side of him becomes obvious -mixed in with the animal side. Elisa transforms her entire bathroom for him, trying to make him comfortable – like one of the Orcas at Sea World, or a person in a cage, he’s not really made for that sort of captivity.

I found this story captivating…..Elisa leads a lonely, unfulfilled existence where very few people truly see her worth. She’s mute, which for a lot of people, seems to define her but for the amphibious man, it’s of no consequence, because he cannot speak either. But he quickly picks up the signs she teaches him and they establish a communication that in some ways, doesn’t even require those. It’s made me want to see the movie even more now.


Book #53 of 2018

2 responses to “Thoughts On: The Shape Of Water by Guillermo del Torro & Daniel Kraus

  1. I enjoyed this one as well.

  2. Since I saw the movie, I don’t think I need to read the book. But 9/10 is pretty darn good.

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