The Lost City of Z by David Grann

This is one of those stories that has a really interesting title that grabs your imagination.  Sounds interesting right?  A lost city hidden in the depths of the Amazon?  In many ways this novel does keep a reader’s attention, but in others it is a hard sell.  That sounds very confusing, here’s the synopsis.  In 1925 Percy Fawcett, a British Geographer and Cartographer, was a well-known explorer who was the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World.  Over his years of exploring and mapping the Amazon, he had come to believe in something he called the Lost City of Z.  In his travels he was constantly finding relics and hints of an ancient society hidden within the Amazon, a city that he believed was the remains of El Dorado.  So in 1925, he began an expedition with his oldest son to find his lost city and disappeared into the Amazon.

After the disappearance of Fawcett’s party, many other excursions were undertaken in an effort to find the missing party.  Many lives were lost following the rumors and clues that came out of the Amazon.  David Grann, an American journalist, became intrigued by this story and begins to tell the story of his adventure into Fawcett’s life, the numerous parties that went looking for Fawcett, exploring the Amazon and the obsession that it can become.

Without a true understanding of what Grann was attempting to do with this book, it can be hard to finish.  The overall story is not the Lost City of Z or discovering what happened to Percy Fawcett.  It’s the story of the deadly obsession that the amazon and the secrets it hides can become.  Fawcett, Grann and every exploration party searching for Fawcett were obsessed with finding what they were seeking.   It didn’t matter the danger what they encountered, poisonous bugs, aggressive native, illnesses, lack of food and clean water, etc.  Through it all they persisted only to come out dead, barely alive or empty handed.  Grann himself began to feel the pull to keep going, keep looking, even when realistic answers to the mystery of Fawcett’s party and the Lost City of Z were in hand.  Interwoven chapters jump from Fawcett’s story, Grann’s research and personal trip into the Amazon and other search parties looking for Fawcett.

Overall, an interesting read that explores the world of the Amazon, the history of exploration, the story of Percy Fawcett and his family, and how questions can quickly become obsessions.  Looking forward to The Lost City of Z movie starring Charles Hunnam set to release in theaters April 21st.

Susana Goldman is the Associate Director of Operations for the Alamance County Public Libraries.  She can be reached at sgoldman@alamancelibraries.org.