The Wager - David Grann

The Wager

By David Grann

  • Release Date: 2023-04-18
  • Genre: True Crime
4.5 Score: 4.5 (From 2,150 Ratings)

Book Synopsis

#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.

A Best Book of the Year: The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker, TIME, Smithsonian, NPR, Vulture, Kirkus Reviews

“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.

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Latest Impressions

  • Excellent work

    By mpcarroll74
    Great read. Captivating and informative.
  • So interesting

    By Marryme2
    Just reading the beginning of the chapter just made me laugh describing the units to be chosen. Ok seriously this was an Excellent history book. Looking forward to more historical book similar to this.👏👏👏👏👏
  • Wager

    By firenirsh
    Amazing story of the most extreme hardships imaginable.
  • Good suspense

    By Mayaperry13
    This book was great. I thought it was super suspenseful throughout the reading. But I’ll be honest the ending was not what I expected. I thought it ended very poorly.
  • Another winning

    By Whim1954
    Book from Mr. Grann. The research is amazing. There are not enough accolades to give for the enjoyment this book gives. Thank you.
  • Ty

    By XanitaK1
    We are still on our house and I can still go back in my room if we can go out for the night but I can go to the house tlater if I’m going out to my place if I’m still in my place if I’m still there I’m still going out there I’ll let them out and get back in the house and then
  • A monumental work - compelling and informative

    By Jake501
    If you like history, this is a must read. The 18th century seems worlds apart from ours, and the author’s descriptions of onboard accommodations, press gangs and navigational resources are starkly revealing. The challenges of extreme weather and naval combat lend understanding of why a ship’s captain has God-like power over everyone, up to life and death. Only the ability to unify an entire crew makes survival possible in some circumstances.
  • Loved all the exciting and extremely interesting details and lives of the people involved

    By Readdds4Life
    Very captivating writing and excellent factual storytelling
  • Half baked

    By mr sterling
    Too much was missing and quite a bit fictionalized. If Mr gran had spent more time on research and less on getting this to his publisher it might have been better. Was disappointed.
  • Engrossing

    By Jennyw2011
    Not typically a non-fiction fan but Grann’s retelling of historical events is so engrossing. He weaves a beautiful narrative peppered with facts and tidbits. I learned a great deal from this book!