The Lost City of Z, even though it's a work of non-fiction, is captivating. It reads like a novel -- a thriller at that. David Grann's book looks at the disappearance of Percy Fawcett. In 1925, Fawcell went missing with his son and his son's best friend during an expedition to find an ancient civilization living in the heart of the Amazon which he called Z. Grann switches his narrative between the past and the present. In the chapters that explore the past, Grann presents Fawcett's brief biography, the trends in archeological exploration during that time, Fawcett's preparation and eventual exploration of the Amazon, and the efforts by many individuals to rescue Fawcett and his team two years after they've gone missing. The result is one riveting read, brimming with information about the Amazon and explorers during the early part of the 1900s.
As an amateur explorer, Fawcett was notably different from his peers. He asserts that advanced civilizations could fluorish in the harsh Amazon rainforest, despite the prevailing belief that it was impossible since the harsh conditions sets a limiting effect on human existence. I also thought he was a progressive thinker, especially when he feels that the Amazon's indigenous peoples are equal in physiology to modern humans. (Many people believed that tribesmen were genetically inferior to humans.) Ultimately, his dream of making his name a legend in the scientific community once he discovers this enigmatic civilization would be his undoing.
The Lost City of Z also appealed to the naturalist in me. It was exciting to read about the many maladies and diseases one can contract when exploring the Amazon. I was fascinated to read how explorers can easily contract malaria, dengue, and yellow fever because of mosquito bites, how gnats can make sleeping comfortable, how ticks attached to one's eyebrows can grow several times their size because they become filled with blood. It wasn't uncommon for a group of say, 100 men, to be dwindled down to half after several weeks in the Amazon. It really is a hostile place. Knowing this, I couldn't help but admire how indigenous peoples have become hardy to survive in this inhospitable place, often relying on herbal medicine to cure these diseases and learning to adjust to the harsh conditions.
Grann's research is evidently meticulous. He reads all relevant correspondences, goes to Brazil to somehow trace Fawcett's path, and manages to unearth a few interesting details about Fawcett's expedition. (One of which is that Fawcett intentionally communicated the wrong coordinates in his letters so that his competitors wouldn't be able to reach his city of Z first.) I immediately felt his investigative experience in this book. Come to think of it, The Lost City of Z is a mystery, an investigative thriller if you will. It attempts to find out what really happened in 1925 to Fawcett. Of course, I won't spoil the details in this review by saying whether Grann did figure out what happened to this trio of explorers. Read The Lost City of Z to find out.
Read this book if:
- You love the Indiana Jones adventure stories.
- You're fascinated about the Amazon and all the people and wildlife that live in it.
- You want to read a true-to-life mystery.