Cover Image: The Wager

The Wager

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Member Reviews

Riveting non-fiction that just seems too amazing to be real. A harrowing account of a shipwreck in 1740 but it's fascinating even before the shipwreck! How did they procure sailors, what did the sailors endure's horrible, but then add in a shipwreck, being castaways, and the drama that follows. A highly engaging non-fiction that reads like fiction.
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I love naval history stories, both non-fiction and fictionalized accounts, there is something so dramatic, intoxicating and romantic about adventures at sea to both the known and the unknown. This one is told through various accounts giving us all sides of a controversial journey that lead to many deaths and ruined reputations. I loved the high of departure for a lofty goal in the British war against Spain which was quickly throttled by sickness and misery. The depictions of the various diseases of the time, typhus and scurvy, as well as life at sea were fascinating. The in-fighting and potential mutiny when they run aground and figure out how to survive definitely gave me anxiety. It was so easy to envision myself in their places trying in desperation not only to survive but to get out of this with some financial benefit even in the darkest of times.

One of the main characters is the famous poet Lord Byron's grandfather and it was interesting to hear his account as well as the influence it had on his future grandson and the writers of the time.

Thanks to Doubleday for gifted access via Netgalley. All opinions above are my own.
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1740, England, Ruler of the Oceans. The warship, Wager, sets out on a journey around the world to capture Spanish wealth. Grann does an excellent job of describing the ship, and all the stores and supplies that had to be loaded and carried around the world, enough for a two-year voyage. Crew members left their families, as they would do time after time whenever a new voyage was ready to go again. 

The ship, part of a convoy sailing together for safety, was separated by bad weather from the rest of the ships and find themselves alone, battling the ocean around the Cape of South America. The ship can finally go no further as it is battered by the most incredible storms. Many crew members have died from scurvy - this was before it was known how to prevent scurvy, using limes  (why the British navy members are called Limies). The surviving crew members were able to leave in a longboat and barely made it to Patagonia. Chaos ensues and all sense of order is gone. There is no food, no discipline, crew members turn against one another and divide into factions. Some slip away in a tiny boat, eventually making it to a place in South America where they can catch a ship bound for England. Captain David Cheap is left behind, until he, too, manages to make it back to England years later. Both the captain and the crew endure court trials to determine the truth of what really happened.

Grann did an amazing job of research, taking the reader into the world of the early sailing ships where wind could be a ship's friend or the enemy. The amount of preparation that went into preparing for the voyage was mind-boggling.  Grann did extensive research into the documents left behind by the crew members, and was able to present many sides of the issues.
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You don't have to be a fan of sea stories or sailing to enjoy Grann's latest. In fact, it sounds like a terrible way to live. Grann brings it all to life.
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My review of The Wager can be found here:
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This is a bit hard to come up with a star rating for, but if I had to pick, it’d probably be a 3 or 4. I was very intimated by this but I’m glad I read it! It was pretty digestible for its content, unlike other heavily historical non-fictions I’ve read. I learned a lot, and was very interested to see how things would be wrapped up. I would recommend for fans of true crime and dark history looking for something different to read.
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As usual, David Grann has done it again. I take the best vacations with him and "The Wager" made the best cruise ship! Highly recommend for any history buffs!
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This 18th century true story is for anyone who enjoys reading about naval misadventures and heroism in the face of great odds. Mixing themes from “In the Heart of the Sea” and “Mutiny on the Bounty” the Wager combines harrowing navigational challenges, violence and group paranoia. You will breeze through this tale of British naval overreach and wish it were longer. David Grann writes beautifully about an unremarkable ship with a very remarkable history.
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4 stars.

Exceptional storytelling, very well-structured, and engaging right from the start. I haven't read David Grann's previous book, "Killers of the Flower Moon," but did hear him speak at our Morristown (NJ) Festival of Books a few years ago. Because I read this as an e-book, I missed out on pictures that I'm sure are in the print book, and that would probably help me visualize everything/everyone better. In any event, I highly recommend this book.

Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a digital ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.
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Grann has, once again, authored a book brimming with suspense.   
Just the premise is fascinating.  In 1742, a British ship smashes into the coast of Brazil with, approximately, 30 bedraggled sailors.  They have an unbelievable story to relate to the authorities.
Yet, that is just the beginning of the story.  About 6 months later, another vessel smashes into a nearby country with 3 sailors disputing (bigtime) the previous story told by the first ship.
Grann's vivid descriptions of the physical hardships were rampant throughout the book and his masterful writing made it that more real.  The cold, the hunger, the rain, and the insecurities permeated the story and it was impossible not to feel  the intensity of the numerous calamities.
The moral questions that were dissected in the book were so powerful.  Where should the line be drawn between mutiny and defending your beliefs?  How do you decide which of the moral issues of a question is the right one?
This was a thought-provoking examination of human values as well as an exhilarating and compelling story.  Another great one by Grann!
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Although my genre is usually not non-fiction, I very much enjoyed this story. many times I had to wipe the salt from my lips. That’s how I felt.
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A  thrilling, detailed, meticuously  researched account of the 1742 wreck and mutiny of the British ship "The Wager".  Based on numerous first hand accounts,the author has recreated every minute of this gripping seafaring saga. Added references to 18th century maritime customs and folklore complete the picture.    My father would have loved this book.
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2.5/5 stars - An interesting read but not quite as gripping as Lost City of Z for me, which I was looking for in a shipwreck kind of way. Learned a lot about the insanity of seafarers before we knew what scurvy was and how isolation on an ocean can lead to incredibly power crazy people.
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I love everything that David Grann writes. The Lost City of Z and Killers of the Flower Moon are two of my favorite nonfiction books of all time. His latest, The Wager, is another fascinating read.

In 1742, a ship called the Wager wrecked on an island near Patagonia during a war between Britain and Spain. Thirty men survived and built a small boat to sail for over 100 days, eventually reaching Brazil. They were seen as heroes for their journey.

However, six months later, another boat arrived in Chile with only three survivors who told a different story. They claimed that the sailors who landed in Brazil were actually mutineers, rebelling against a cruel officer. The two groups accused each other of treachery and murder. To find out the truth, a court martial was held, and the guilty party could face execution.

This is the best book I've read this year. It's beautifully researched and the blow-by-blow retelling is more compelling than most of the thrillers I've read this year. There are a couple of gaps in the story — nothing major. Just parts that are lost to history. I appreciate the author for not guessing his way through filling in the blanks with his own suppositions.

There are quotes from authors like Herman Melville and Joseph Conrad that bring life to this tale that had me flying through this book that I did not want to end. If you love nonfiction and nautical history, you have to read this.
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David Grann follows up his hugely successful Killers of the Flower Moon with another nonfiction tale of men in peril and facing incredible hardship at the risk of their lives.   The British warship Wager sets sail to round the tip of South America but is wrecked on the rocks.   From this point the survivors face disease and starvation but also death from different splinter groups that have formed.  The journey to rescue is every bit as harrowing as the wreck but several suvivors finally make it back to England, only to be put on trial for mutiny.  Gleaned from narratives published after-the-fact, Grann presents a forgotten piece of history that seemingly has been forgotten.  A great choice for armchair adventurers.
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This was an incredible look at an event in history that I knew nothing about. I haven't spend a great deal of time in my life thinking about the long and dangerous voyages across the sea that established new colonies, trade routes, and naturally were rife with piracy. Reading this book opened my eyes to the reality and the dangers that were experienced on the sea, not only from the sea herself, but from starvation, severe malnourishment, and disease. One wrong move on a ship could prove fatal, and decisions often had to be made in minutes that could either sink or save the ship. 

The story of The Wager is an interesting one because it is a tale about what happens when a group of sailors are shipwrecked and break into factions. Is it mutiny if one group decides to take their chances and leave rather than risk imminent starvation? Does their arrival home make them heroes or villains? And who is actually telling the truth about the wreck and what happened on the island? 

While parts of the book might seem slow-going, every detail is purposeful and important. There are some violent and gruesome scenes in this book however that might not be for the faint of heart.
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I found this book to be well researched, well-written and extremely easy to read. It was actually quite a thrilling read to be honest. It felt more like I was reading an adventure book than a nonfiction book. The beginning was slow for me to get into, but once the boats set sail, the pacing picked up immensely and I was hooked at that point. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one.
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David Grann is always worth a read. It's a story of shipwreck and castaways and the hypocrisy of colonialism. I understand this was a book about the Wager and fellow ships, but I just wanted more from the perspective of the Indigenous people who ended up aiding castaways.
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Absolutely riveting new work from David Grann. Grann's attention to detail and historical narration never fail to disappoint. Even those uninterested in the sea and shipwrecks will find this to be a captivating study of the human condition.
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I previously really enjoyed Grann's The Lost City of Z and Killers of the Flower Moon. I have also recently been really into stories of survival, so I thought this was going to be a huge hit for me. Unfortunately, it fell a little bit flat. 

The Wager is unquestionably well-researched and written. The problem I had was with expectations. It is presented as a story of mutiny, survival, and courtroom drama, but it takes over half of the book before we get to any of that. The first part is a background on British ships and military and the lives of the men on The Wager. Once we finally get to the part that was promised, I felt like it was glossed over. Events of the wreck and journey through the sea were presented quickly and matter-of-factly. We barely see anything of the trial that is spoken about in the blurb. 

Overall, a good book, but one I probably wouldn't have picked up if I'd known better what to expect. My interests just don't align in the way I thought they did.

For you if you like:
-Military history
-Life of a sailor
-Straightforward writing
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