The Wager

The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder by David Grann is a really well researched non-fiction novel. It chronicles the terrible journey encountered by a British crew on the HMS Wager in the year 1740. Sea voyages were still very uncertain in that time, but the life of a sailor was even worse than I expected. Grann paints a vivid picture of the struggles onboard, especially the living conditions, the dangerous work and the diseases that took the lives of most of this crew.

‘The Wager’ was a merchant ship that was reconditioned as a warship so that it could be used in the war against the Spanish. Its secret mission was to attack and defeat a Spanish treasure ship and bring the gold and valuables back to England. After a series of disasters, the ship ends up marooned on a desolate island and the men deal with storms, disease, betrayals, mutiny, starvation and more. Two years later, a small group of men make it back to Brazil, and 6 months after that a different small group make it to Chile. When they all arrive back in England, their stories are not the same . . . Whose story is correct? Who will be court-martialed or hung? Who will be believed?

This novel is only 260 pages long and there are quite a few photos included as well. I learned so much about early sailing ships and even about some sayings that we use today that originate from life on the sea. The Wager was a terrific adventure story about the way life went terribly wrong on one British warship!

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