On 28th January 1742, a ramshackle vessel of patched-together wood and cloth washed up on the coast of Brazil. Inside were thirty emaciated men, barely alive, and they had an extraordinary tale to tell. They were survivors of His Majesty's ship The Wager, a British vessel that had left England in 1740 on a secret mission during an imperial war with Spain. While chasing a Spanish treasure-filled galleon, The Wager was wrecked on a desolate island off the coast of Patagonia. The crew, marooned for months and facing starvation, built the flimsy craft and sailed for more than a hundred days, traversing 2,500 miles of storm-wracked seas. They were greeted as heroes.
Then, six months later, another, even more decrepit, craft landed on the coast of Chile. This boat contained just three castaways and they had a very different story to tell. The thirty sailors who landed in Brazil were not heroes - they were mutineers. The first group responded with counter-charges of their own, of a tyrannical and murderous captain and his henchmen. While stranded on the island the crew had fallen into anarchy, with warring factions fighting for dominion over the barren wilderness. As accusations of treachery and murder flew, the Admiralty convened a court martial to determine who was telling the truth. The stakes were life-and-death-for whomever the court found guilty could hang.
Format: Paperback / softback
Number of Pages: 352
Publication Date: 11 May 2023
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
Publication City, Country: London, United Kingdom
Dimensions (cm): 23.4(H) x 15.3(L) x 2.3(W)
Author BiographyDavid Grann is a staff writer at The New Yorker. He has written about everything from New York City's antiquated water tunnels to the hunt for the giant squid. His stories have appeared in several anthologies. He has written for the New York Times Magazine, the Atlantic Monthly, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the New Republic. He lives in New York with his wife and two children.
Reviews'The beauty of The Wager unfurls like a great sail... one of the finest nonfiction books I've ever read. I can only offer the highest praise a writer can give: endless envy, as deep and salty as the sea' -- Matthew Teague * Guardian *
'Vivid, immediate and tantalising... Grann has a knack not just for telling a great story, but for bringing it to life through its characters... There are a great many books on British naval history; very few are this good' * Sunday Times *
'Grann combines a forensic eye with a storyteller's enthusiasm... [he] skilfully moves between several genres - giving us a tense court-martial drama to finish an unrelenting survival thriller' * Sunday Telegraph *
'This astonishing tale of maritime warfare, mutiny and survival in the 18th-century Atlantic proves that a nonfiction book can be as thrilling as any summer blockbuster' * People *
'The story of The Wager is, like many of its antecedents - from Homer's Odyssey to Mutiny on the Bounty - a testement to the depths of human depravity and the heights of human endurance, and you can't ask for better than that from a story... The Wager will keep you in its grip to its head-stratching, improbable end' * The Los Angeles Times *
'A tour de force of narrative nonfiction, Mr. Grann's account shows how storytelling, whether to judges or readers, can shape individual and national fortunes-as well as our collective memory... The Wager is likely to cast a powerful spell on modern readers as well' * Wall Street Journal *
'Those who love yarns involving cannon fire, sea-chests, plum duff and mainmasts will find The Wager riveting, as will those less intrigued by the age of sail. In the hands of David Grann, the story transcends its naval setting... [Grann] is a master of exciting tales in far-flung places. He has produced a volume so dramatic and engrossing that it may surpass his previous books' * The Economist *
'... one of the premier nonfiction storytellers of our time... Grann's masterful new book The Wager is at once an adventure on the high seas, a horror story and a courtroom drama - a little bit Rashomon meets Lord of the Flies' * Rolling Stone *
'Grann recreates the voyage in all its enthralling horror' * New York Times Bestseller list, 'Editor's Choice' *
'It's the kind of inspiring chronicle that would make for a rousing maritime adventure. But this is a David Grann book, and so he gives us something more... Their struggle for survival consumed them; reading about their struggle for survival intruged me - as Grann, the consummate narrative architect, must have known it would' * The New York Times *
'The Wager is unadorned, almost pure, horror-filled plot ... a tightly written, relentless, blow-by-blow account that is hard to put down' * The Washington Post *
'Bestseller Grann (Killers of the Flower Moon) delivers a concise and riveting account of the HMS Wager... Grann packs the narrative with fascinating details about life at sea-from scurvy-induced delirium to the mechanics of loading and firing a cannon-and makes excellent use of primary sources, including a firsthand account by 16-year-old midshipman John Byron, grandfather of the poet Lord Byron. Armchair adventurers will be enthralled' * Publishers Weekly *
'A genre-defying literary naval-history thriller, part Master and Commander, part Lord of the Flies' * Vanity Fair *
'David Grann is one of the very select club of writers: those who books of history are so diverting that they almost seem implausible. Their narrative constrictions are so effective, the dialogue so apposite, that jaded readers might think everything has been made up or twisted to give the books life, in novelistic fashion' * Spectator *