A story of shipwreck, survival, and savagery, culminating in a court martial that reveals a shocking truth. The 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] propulsive, finely detailed seafaring saga ... This is a ripping yarn disguised as an acute study of group psychology, or perhaps the other way around. However you categorize The Wager, it is a remarkable book ... Grann guides us through this process, step by step, storm by storm, man by man, in prose that the writers he references, including Herman Melville and Joseph Conrad, would appreciate. The book invites landlubbers in with vivid descriptions of life at sea, peppered with explanations of phrases and idioms given us by that life.
The most gripping true-life sea yarn I’ve read in years ... A tour de force of narrative nonfiction, Mr. Grann’s account shows how storytelling, whether to judges or readers, can shape individual and national fortunes—as well as our collective memory ... The story of the Wager has the weight of myth ... Mr. Grann renders vividly the furies of the waters around Cape Horn ... The Wager is likely to cast a powerful spell on modern readers as well.
[Grann] has found not just a good but a great story, fraught with duplicity, terror and occasional heroism ... One trick Grann pulls off — again and again — is not showing his hand, and this review honors that accomplishment by not revealing the details of what happens next ... Another Grann specialty is on full display — creating a cast of indelible characters from the dustiest of sources: 18th century ship’s logs, surgeons’ textbooks, court-martial proceedings. What a fascinating, conflicted lot they are ... The other strength of the Wager’s story is that it just gets more and more improbable ... The Wager will keep you in its grip to its head-scratching, improbable end.