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The Wager

By David Grann
The Wager by David Grann digital book - Fable

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Publisher Description

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the author of Killers of the Flower Moon, a page-turning story of shipwreck, survival, and savagery, culminating in a court martial that reveals a shocking truth. The powerful narrative reveals the deeper meaning of the events on The Wager, showing that it was not only the captain and crew who ended up on trial, but the very idea of empire.

“Riveting...Reads like a thriller, tackling a multilayered history—and imperialism—with gusto.” —Time

"A tour de force of narrative nonfiction.” —The Wall Street Journal

On January 28, 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 the Wager had been chasing a Spanish treasure-filled galleon known as “the prize of all the oceans,” it had wrecked on a desolate island off the coast of Patagonia. The men, after being marooned for months and facing starvation, built the flimsy craft and sailed for more than a hundred days, traversing nearly 3,000 miles of storm-wracked seas. They were greeted as heroes.

But then ... six months later, another, even more decrepit craft landed on the coast of Chile. This boat contained just three castaways, and they told a very different story. The thirty sailors who landed in Brazil were not heroes – they were mutineers. The first group responded with countercharges of their own, of a tyrannical and murderous senior officer and his henchmen. It became clear that 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.

The Wager is a grand tale of human behavior at the extremes told by one of our greatest nonfiction writers. Grann’s recreation of the hidden world on a British warship rivals the work of Patrick O’Brian, his portrayal of the castaways’ desperate straits stands up to the classics of survival writing such as The Endurance, and his account of the court martial has the savvy of a Scott Turow thriller. As always with Grann’s work, the incredible twists of the narrative hold the reader spellbound.

61 Reviews

Thumbs Up“I really liked this book overall. My one beef with it is that I feel like everyone got off the hook too easily. His writing style was right up my alley, and I love narrative non-fiction.”
Multi-layered charactersDescriptive writingEasy to readFast-pacedSuspensefulThought-provoking
Thinking Face“Well told! It wasn't even aware of that Grann had published another book, but I'm so glad that I got to read it. He did an excellent job bringing these people back to life after so many years of their voices not being heard and an excellent job of focusing on those that history forgets.”
Beautifully written
Thumbs Up“I love learning about pirates, so this non-fiction book was really cool. I enjoyed the descriptions of events and the crew. It was easy to follow and I kind of wish it was longer.”
Descriptive writingImmersive setting
Expressionless Face“I listened to this via audio book and the narrator made this way more exciting than it actually was. I do recommend it if anyone’s having trouble with this book. I’m not a non-fiction fan but I dislike Lord of the Flies (which the events of this was) even more. I’ve read historical fiction before along with a couple other non fiction books, but this one was meh because the content was just meh. Again the audiobook is 10/10 for making it interesting, but the content is meh.”
Anxious Face with sweat“I had picked up this book several months prior to seeing a book club read of it. I’m so glad I I decided to read it with the book club and can’t believe it sat in my shelf for that long unread. I do enjoy nonfiction but don’t read it very often. This book was extremely well written and did not feel like a nonfiction work.”
Beautifully writtenDescriptive writingEasy to readImmersive settingThought-provoking

About David Grann

DAVID GRANN is the author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON and THE LOST CITY OF Z. KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON was a finalist for the National Book Award and won an Edgar Allan Poe Award. He is also the author of THE WHITE DARKNESS and the collection THE DEVIL AND SHERLOCK HOLMES. Grann’s investigative reporting has garnered several honors, including a George Polk Award. He lives with his wife and children in New York.

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