Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Lost City of Z by David Grann

From the jacket: A grand mystery reaching back centuries. A sensational disappearance that made headlines around the world. A quest for truth that leads to death, madness or disappearance for those who seek to solve it. The Lost City of Z is a blockbuster adventure narrative about what lies beneath the impenetrable jungle canopy of the Amazon.

After stumbling upon a hidden trove of diaries, acclaimed New Yorker writer David Grann set out to solve "the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century": What happened to the British explorer Percy Fawcett and his quest for the Lost City of Z?

In 1925 Fawcett ventured into the Amazon to find an ancient civilization, hoping to make one of the most important discoveries in history. For centuries Europeans believed the world’s largest jungle concealed the glittering kingdom of El Dorado. Thousands had died looking for it, leaving many scientists convinced that the Amazon was truly inimical to humankind. But Fawcett, whose daring expeditions helped inspire Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, had spent years building his scientific case. Captivating the imagination of millions around the globe, Fawcett embarked with his twenty-one-year-old son, determined to prove that this ancient civilization—which he dubbed “Z”—existed. Then he and his expedition vanished.

Fawcett’s fate—and the tantalizing clues he left behind about “Z”—became an obsession for hundreds who followed him into the uncharted wilderness. For decades scientists and adventurers have searched for evidence of Fawcett’s party and the lost City of Z. Countless have perished, been captured by tribes, or gone mad. As David Grann delved ever deeper into the mystery surrounding Fawcett’s quest, and the greater mystery of what lies within the Amazon, he found himself, like the generations who preceded him, being irresistibly drawn into the jungle’s “green hell.” His quest for the truth and his stunning discoveries about Fawcett’s fate and “Z” form the heart of this complex, enthralling narrative.

David Grann's site.

Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Doubleday (February 24, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0385513534
ISBN-13: 978-0385513531

My thoughts: This book is totally fascinating. I checked it out of the library thinking it might be interesting and probably dry. I was wrong. It was VERY interesting, well written, compelling, and not in the least bit dry.

The story follows several lines. Fawcett's life and several of his trips into the Amazon are explored. This is the main thrust of the book. Grann's research and his search for Fawcett is written about. Other searches for Fawcett are touched upon, as are the accomplishments of some of Fawcett's contempories. I was glad to learn about the Royal Geographic Society. I had read about it and seen in several books and movies but I hadn't paid much attention to it. Fawcett's wife, Nina, was a tragic figure at the end.The information about ancient civilizations in the Amazon, found at the end of the book, was amazing to me, a person who knows next to nothing about the Amazon. It was like reading an adventure novel, only I actually learned. Read it.

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Amazon, non-fiction, El Dorado, exploration, Fawcett


Dennis the Vizsla said...

I read an extensive article in either Smithsonian or The New Yorker (or both) about the lost Amazonian cities. It was fascinating stuff!

Dennis the Vizsla said...

I tracked down the New Yorker article ... it was in the September 19, 2005 issue. The abstract can be found at but you have to register or be a subscriber to read the whole thing.

Sharon said...

Thank you James!

Wanda said...

This really does sound like a fascinating read, your review makes me
miss the history channel...