Wager, by Richard Woodman – great nautical fiction

by Peter on December 21, 2010

Wager, written by Richard Woodman, is an interesting nautical novel from the Age of Sails. Woodman is the author of the excellent series about Nathaniel Drinkwater,  and has also written several non-fiction books about various subjects in naval history. He is an excellent writer and very knowledgeable.

The year is 1869. The context is the English East India trade from China. The Wager, by Richard Woodman concept is well known: A race between two ships. And the stakes are high: Captain “Cracker Jack” Kemball of the tea clipper Erl King has agreed to race Captain Richards of the Seawitch from Shangai to London, and has wagered his daughter’s hand in marriage. The bet is on who can get that year’s tea harvest to London first. Riding on the bet, of course, is also money and prestige.

The race is tough and hard – all the tricks in the book are used to gain advantage. And as the fastest sailing vessels ever built storm across the world’s oceans, murder, mayhem and deceit are all part of the game. External forces come into play as well – storms, pirates and accidents. And – as Hannah, Kemball’s daughter, is a woman in a men’s world, so is lust and attraction.

I read this book fast. It is a great story and a pretty light read. It has some relatively implausible aspects, but with some small leaps of faith they do not matter much. The story itself is amazing, and if you like nautical fiction and want a light exciting read, Wager may be the book you want.

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