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The Wager

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From the international bestselling author of KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON and THE LOST CITY OF Z, a mesmerizing story of shipwreck, mutiny and murder, culminating in a court martial that reveals a shocking truth.
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.

Synopsis source:


Genre(s): Nonfiction, History, True Crime, Mystery/Thriller
HB&W Rating: 4
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This was an interesting snippet of history that remains a mystery to this day. The only people who will know what really happened are those that lived it, and dead men tell no tales, as it were.

I find this story to be an interesting look into human nature and what drives people to do things that may not normally be in their nature. Keep in mind that this is a factual look at a historical event, so it can be a bit dry in parts, but Grann (author of Killers of the Flower Moon) does a great job of bringing that history to life. He recreates the mystery of the doomed Wager and its crew in a way that really depicts the challenges and tribulations of life at sea and as castaways, sometimes in extremely graphic detail (like the description of scurvy). He cites studies and the detailed journals of other seamen to further round out his story for the reader. I also liked how he proposed that the reason no charges ever made it to trial had largely to do with politics and the way Britain wanted to be viewed on the world stage, just another example of history not always telling the whole story, or even the true story.

I will say that this was not something I enjoyed listening to on audio. The narrator was great and honestly has a lovely voice, but the content of the book is such that I believe, for me at least, is better read in its written form instead of listening to it.

If you enjoy history and love a good swashbuckling tale, you should check this one out!

Until next time,

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