The Wager (Review)

The Wager (Review)

o this is a first – my wife pushed an age-of-sail book on me for once. And it was very, very good.

So the HMS Wager was one the ships in Commodore Anson’s floating boat-wreck of a mission, to round Cape Horn (at the tip of South America) and get into the Spanish Pacific, to loot, burn and steal (i.e. open piracy and murder with the hint of legitimacy that war brings). Easy plan – they’d round the world and be back by tea, right?

Well, first, they are hounded by Spanish warships since even Irish children knew this mission was on. And then they got to Cape Horn at the worst time of the year. For the next month, they tried to beat around the point and get into the Pacific Ocean. Think about that – sailing in horrible icy storms for an entire month. With scurvy (your flesh starting to break down and your teeth tumbling from your mouth). Eventually most of the fleet managed to regroup at a rally point, all but poor Wager, that got on a lee shore in southern Chile and ran into a horribly bleak island in the middle of nowhere. Don’t believe me? Look up Wager Island in Chile and see it today. Hardly anything but a run down village on the nearby mainland. Now think about centuries ago. Talk about bleak.

So the story documents the survivor’s struggle with hunger and cold, the breakdown of authority, the murders that took place. I don’t want to say how it ended, other than the heartache and struggle was hardly over. Even when the survivors got back to England for face an inquiry, the struggle continued.

Overall, a sad, depressing book, and one that will cure you of wishing you lived in history.

But good. Very very good. I give it a full recommendation.