Book Review: The Lost City Of Z: David Grann

Posted on April 25, 2011

Fiction has always understood the concept of wanting to return to a place that is decidedly unhealthy. It also has been very good at describing the toll that deep dark jungle has on the human psyche. Lost City of Z is about that conundrum, but real.

Grann is a mild mannered journalist who often gets sidetracked with tales of obsession. He finally found his story with Percy Fawcett, a British ‘colonel’ who believes, after finding the ruins of a city in the Sri Lanken jungle, that there is a lost city deep in the Amazonian Jungle.

Fawcett gives his entire life to this search. For over 30 years he hauls men and supplies deep into the jungle. Nearly every time the better part of his group dies, becomes irreparably sick or mutinies. It happens the same way each trip: Fawcett finally drums up some money from the Royal Geographic Society or private donations, he puts together a crew, the crew eats a lot and heads into the jungle, then one by one the party is whittled down to usually Fawcett and one of his right hand men.

By the way, to be in Fawcett’s crew you had to sign a waiver saying you were okay with being left behind to die in the jungle if you broke an arm or became too sick to move on your own.

This all continues until Fawcett never emerges from the jungle (he had taken his son and his son’s best friend on this particular journey). The question remains: What happened to him? Search parties are organized. Nearly 100 people die trying to find the explorer.

Grann’s book does its best to answer this question. He even goes so far as to go to the last place where Fawcett was seen, to interview the tribe that last housed him and, at one point at time, said they had killed him. Grann has his own ‘jungle moment’, but ~spoiler alert~ he makes it out alive and disease free (as far as we know).

Did you like Apocalypse Now or Heart of Darkness? Do you want to read a gripping tale of obsession and death defying adventures? Would you like nothing more than to be transported back to a time when a man could un-ironically have a business card that says ‘explorer’? Then pick up Lost City of Z.

I can tell you this, food will taste better and your bed will never feel more comfortable after reading this book.

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