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Initial Thoughts: And the winner for best picture goes to… The Shape of Water! I had initially seen clips from The Shape of Water at the Golden Globe awards, and then later at the Oscars. There was something so enchanting about this movie that drew me in completely. I had no idea what the movie was about, but I just had this feeling that I had to watch the movie! Not only did The Shape of Water win best picture, and best director at the Oscars, it also won for “Best Original Score” from Alexandre Desplat. I’m a huge sucker for movie scores, so this only elevated my obsession with seeing the movie. As it was not yet available to rent in Canada until March 13, I decided to read the movie novelization in the meantime.


The Shape of WaterThe Shape of Water by Guillermo del Toro


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. ” – Goodreads

The Review

The Shape of Water is the movie novelization of Guillermo del Toro’s latest masterpiece, and includes all the beauty expected from a movie created by Guillermo del Toro. In 1962, in the height of the Cold War, a sea creature is brought from the Amazon to a laboratory in Baltimore to be studied. Only Elisa Esposito, a janitor who has been mute since childhood, has managed to communicate with the creature. Gradually, they bond and fall in love. But, the creature is hardly safe. Richard Strickland, the soldier responsible for capturing the creature, wants nothing more than to see the creature killed and vivisected. Will Elisa be able to save the creature?
As I had mentioned, the first time I discovered the movie, The Shape of Water, was while watching the Golden Globe awards. In the short clips I had seen, I knew there was something special and magical about the movie. The movie novelization is a brilliantly crafted masterpiece. The writing transports you into a beautiful world where a woman and a sea creature share an interesting bond transcending words.
The antagonist, Richard Strickland, was a bit of a surprise. I thought I had him entirely figured out at the beginning of the book. He’s initially presented as a military man who is caught up in the savagery of war that he loses himself completely to his instincts and hatred. But, there is more to Richard Strickland than meets the eye. He is such a complicated figure that he can be both a victim and a villain if you look closely. Of course, I completely disliked him throughout reading this book, but I liked that he showed more humanity than most villains. I could see how he was warped and twisted by his actions and surroundings. After watching the movie, Strickland has absolutely zero redeemable qualities, and all my sympathy for him went out of the water. I thought this was a bit of a shame that the scenes in the book that made him seem human were cut from the movie.
Elisa was an interesting protagonist. It is rare that novels (or even movies) will have a mute person as the main character. Elisa’s muteness and reliance on sign language made her stick out in my mind. Her muteness allows for her to see the world in a completely different way. She sort of reminds me of Amelie Poulain, from my favorite movie Amelie (Le Fabuleux destin d’Amelie Poulain).

Once I watched the movie, I was surprised how Richard’s wife, Elaine was mostly cut from the movie. In the book, she does not play a key role to the main events of the story, but her story is really worth telling.

I really wish that there could have been a little more interiority from the creature. There are small portions in the novel that are devoted to the internal monologue of the creature and how he sees the world. It was so fascinating I wish a third of the book would have been written in his perspective, or in Elisa’s perspective.

All in all, this was an amazing novel, and I would definitely recommend The Shape of Water for those who have loved the movie. The movie novelization adds so much backstory to the characters and lingers upon Elisa’s moments with the creature. I would also recommend The Shape of Water to fans of Beauty and the Beast, and fans of Guillermo del Toro’s movies.

Final Rating: 

A Excellent

About the Book 

Title: The Shape of Water 
Author: Guillermo del Toro & Daniel Kraus
Pages: 384
Year Published: 2018
Genres & Subjects: Movie novelization, Romance, Science fiction, Cold War, Horror, Fantasy, Historical fiction


Until Next Time,