The Wreck of the Medusa: The Most Famous Sea Disaster of the Nineteenth Century

Jonathan Miles (Author)
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The Wreck of the Medusa is Jonathan Miles's spellbinding account of the most famous shipwreck before the Titanic. Drawing on contemporaneously published accounts and journals of survivors, Miles brilliantly reconstructs the ill-fated voyage and the events that inspired Theodore Gericault's magnificent painting The Raft of the Medusa.

In July of 1816, the French frigate Medusa, bound for the Senegalese port colony of Saint Louis under the command of an incompetent royalist captain, hit a famously treacherous reef. In the chaos that ensued, the commander and a privileged few claimed the lifeboats. The rest were herded onto a makeshift raft and set adrift. Without a compass or many provisions, hit by a vicious storm the first night and exposed to sweltering heat during the following days, the group set upon each other: mayhem, mutiny, and murder ensued. When rescue arrived thirteen days later, only fifteen were alive.

Two survivors' written account of the tragedy became an international best seller that exposed far-reaching corruption in Restoration France. The scandal inspired a young artist, Theodore Gericault, whose iconic depiction of suffering and hope won first prize at the Salon of 1819 and captivated viewers in the Louvre for centuries to come.

Product Details

$16.00  $14.72
Grove Press
Publish Date
November 01, 2008
5.9 X 1.0 X 8.8 inches | 0.8 pounds
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About the Author

Jonathan Miles is the cocktails columnist for the New York Times and the books columnist for Men's Journal. His work has appeared in GQ, Oxford American, New York Observer, and New York Times Book Review.


"With powerful prose and riveting detail, Jonathan Miles has taken the story behind one of the world's most famous paintings and woven it into a timeless tale of betrayal and survival." -- Candice Millard
"A fascinating look into the machinations of Restoration France revolving around the horrific wreck of an Africa-bound ship and the famed painting it inspired that stirred all of Europe. The spellbinding characters and lucid writing make this a genuine page-turner." -- Winston F. Groom
"Hard to put down, this truly horrendous tale plumbs the depths of brutality and incompetence, as well as touching the bounds of human survival. The saga of Gericault's Medusa also illuminates vividly a little-known period of French history--those muddy years that followed the collapse of Waterloo." -- Alistair Horne