I’m a sucker for history non-fiction. If I come across a book in the history section that has a splashy image on the front, an intriguing blurb, and some fast-paced, footnotes-be-damned writing that puts me in the thick of the action, I’ll check that book out, ten times out of ten. I’ve also gotten to “an age” where I enjoy stories about 18th and 19th Century naval clashes and exploration expeditions, smelling the salt air and hearing the creak of wooden ships from the comfort of my recliner at home.
Which is why I was excited to read David Grann’s The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny, and Murder.
Available at RPL as a book, e-book, and e-audiobook.
As a reader with an academic background in history, I was surprised that I’d never heard of the tale of the Wager, a British ship which sank off the southern coast of Chile in the 1740s. Even though the incident inspired authors and poets for several generations, until this book came out the Wager had largely faded into obscurity. Through Grann’s treatment of both the story and the actors in it, the crash of storms in the frigid and turbulent Southern Ocean came alive; the privation and starvation that the crew experienced gnawed at the edge of my imagination. I could hardly put down the book as I read on to find out who, if anyone, could survive this harrowing experience.
If you enjoyed The Killers of the Flower Moon or The Lost City of Z (both written by David Grann) or if you love those old stories of exploration and conflict on the waves (Patrick O’Brian’s books, Nathaniel Philbrick’s Sea of Glory, or even Dan Simmons’ novel about the HMS Terror and Erebus), give The Wager a try and set sail into this story of intrigue and tragedy at the edge of the world.