March 7th, 2009

Review: The Lost City of Z by David Grann

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

by David Grann

In 1925, renowned explorer Percy Fawcett took his son and boldly trekked into the Amazon, determined to reveal the location of a lost city he suspected lay hidden beneath the dense jungle canopy.   Neither he nor any members of his party were ever seen again. Journalist David Grann is determined to trace Fawcett’s final steps and discover what ultimately happened to the famous man – succeeding where many have failed over the years – and hopefully, in the process, finding the fabled city Fawcett was willing to risk everything to uncover.

The Lost City of Z was everything I wanted The White Mary  to be, and more. Grann begins his quest by hunting down every last scrap of information Fawcett left behind, in the process piecing together the biography of a fascinating man. If anyone could have located a mythical city in the middle of the jungle, it was Col. Percy Fawcett, a man who had successfully completed multiple excursions into the wild with only the barest of supplies. Grann brings the explorer back from the dead as a larger-than-life Indiana Jones, a man who lives and breathes adventure. But he doesn’t sugarcoat Fawcett’s flaws: the man is clearly obsessed with “Z” to the point that his grip of reality seems tenuous, and he was apparently quite merciless to his assistants in the jungle. Several men who survived an expedition with Fawcett describe a man who seems to be not a hero, but a monster. He is a fascinating, complex character and, it seems, the last of a dying breed.

Just as captivating as Fawcett’s original explorations are Grann’s attempts to recreate his path and track down the explorer’s final fate. Usually a writer for The New Yorker, Grann isn’t anyone’s idea of a heroic explorer. It’s pretty clear that without our modern technology, he’d never have been able to attempt to follow Fawcett. But he is a thorough journalist, and an entertaining writer who knows when he has a good story. He takes his reader on a whirlwind adventure that spans the globe.

To read more about The Lost City of Z, buy it or add it to your wishlist, click here.