Monday, November 02, 2009

Review Musings: The Lost City of Z by David Grann

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.

My review: 

I rarely read non-fiction because it always leaves me frustrated. I get halfway through the book and am bored to death. But, I figured I'd give this book a chance since almost all of the reviews I'd read were great. And, WOW, what a ride this book was! It gripped me from page one and didn't let go until the final word. It was a wonderful book, well written, engaging and truly interesting. I'm not much of an adventure/travel type reader so I am still a bit surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. I didn't know a lot about the Amazon or the El Dorado legend. In fact, I wasn't particularly interested in either of them. However, this book made that region come alive in a way that made me feel as if I was there. 

There was an excellent mix of geography, anthropology, culture, exploration and discovery. I love how David Grann was able to weave together the present day with the story of Percy Fawcett. I didn't want to put it down ... such a gripping read. Finally ... a non-fiction book that I can wholeheartedly recommend!

My review:  5 out of 5 stars!

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