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The Wager: A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny, and Murder (2023)

di David Grann

Altri autori: Vedi la sezione altri autori.

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1,855709,145 (4.04)75
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 2500 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.… (altro)
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A well told tale of mutiny and heroism on the high seas in the eighteenth century. An American author decries British colonial ambitions of the time. ( )
  Steve38 | Apr 10, 2024 |
This was a fantastic book that was difficult to put down. I'm a sucker for sea-books and this one did not disappoint.

While this is a non-fiction account its narrative reads like the most fantastical of stories. The sea truly brings out the best (and worst) of us which makes for compelling reading. The chapters come at you in short bursts that keep the intrigue without skimming over things.

Scattered amongst the drama are the nuggets of maritime anecdotes that will impress your sea loving guests and fill your trivia armory. I now know where the phrase "under the weather" comes from and I'm excited to share it with unsuspecting dinner guests.

But there is a lot of substance to this book. There is a lot to learn from this particular history, on human nature and overcoming struggle, on how we have progressed since that time or the fact that we haven't. ( )
  The_James | Apr 9, 2024 |
There is an immensely long literary and artistic tradition of works describing nautical disaster. The fact itself seems to reflect a primordial fear of the seas, that humans need to overcome if they wanted to take advantage of its potential for travel and transport, but that has never really left them. David Grann joined the club with a detailed account of the loss of HMS Wager in 1741, and the book became a best-seller. It is an eminently readable exploration of the actions of the survivors, the conflicts that erupted between them after they were stranded on an island on the Western coast of modern Chile, and their struggle for survival. Eventually, several small groups would make it back home.

Grann writes in his afterword that a surprising amount of evidence remains on file; logbooks, letters, and books published by the survivors. They allow him to tell a rich story, from which he chooses to omit some conflicts in his source material to not get bogged down too much in controversies. I read the book in a Dutch translation by Robert Neugarten, and I found the translation competent but in places also a bit awkward, as the translator seems unfamiliar with the specifics of the naval jargon. He confuses the lee and the lee shore, for example, and his handling of naming conventions for Royal Navy ships is unusual.

I find that Grann is somewhat talking up the scandal. The Royal Navy commissioned another HMS Wager in 1744, the year after the first survivors returned to England, which suggests to me that the loss of the original Wager was not seen as a black mark. (The name was re-used again in 1943.) Grann is almost resentful that the Admiralty found it quite sufficient to have an inquiry in the causes of the loss of the Wager, and decided that no useful purpose would be served by raking over the actions of desperate men. Grann comes up with the theory that the Admiralty feared that such an investigation would undermine the assumptions of white supremacy on which the Empire was built, but to me that is a very 21st century notion that would probably have baffled an 18th century admiral. More likely they just felt that it was not their job to provide fodder for journalists, politicians, and future writers! ( )
  EmmanuelGustin | Apr 2, 2024 |
This book was fun. Well, maybe fun isn't the right word for a nonfiction book about a disastrous 18th century British voyage to try to intercept a Spanish galleon during the War of Jenkin's Ear. To find the Spanish, the group of ships has to go around Cape Horn, the very southern tip of South America. The ships get separated, with some of the men becoming stranded on a (mainly) uninhabited island off the coast of modern day Chile. The book focuses on the leadership issues that arise and the ways the men try to survive while fighting amongst themselves. They end up splitting up (violently) to try to get back to England or meet up with the rest of their ships. Spoiler alert - most of them die. There are a few that return to England to tell their story - all trying to craft a version that puts them in the best light.

This was an entertaining tale that also explores what happens to humans under extreme physical stress. Grann does a great job describing the setting and extreme weather conditions that the men found themselves in. Every time I read one of these disaster books, I just shake my head over and over. It is crazy to me that humans were willing to do these doomed voyages just to get money or glory for themselves and their country. There must be something in the human DNA that makes us want to explore and have adventure, and I suppose to conquer as well. ( )
1 vota japaul22 | Apr 2, 2024 |
This is an absolute delight of a book!
I started with negative expectations - the book was in the best seller lists, so it was going to be overblown, over-written or over-the-top. It was none of these. Instead it was almost perfect historical fiction, and firmly placed at the "historical" end of that continuum.
The author has a gem of a story to work with - the almost unbelievable harshness of life on a British navy ship in the mid-1700s that gets wrecked on an island off the west coast of South America. Against all odds, several different groups of castaways make it back to the UK, with differing accounts of what went went wrong and who was to blame.
Grann works the source material into a story that is strongly factual, with very limited authorial interventions. The result is very readable, extremely compelling - an absolute delight. ( )
  mbmackay | Mar 18, 2024 |
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Nome dell'autoreRuoloTipo di autoreOpera?Stato
David Grannautore primariotutte le edizionicalcolato
Graham, DionNarratoreautore secondarioalcune edizioniconfermato
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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 2500 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.

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