Category Archives: David Grann

The Lost City of Z – David Grann

I don’t know if I mentioned it but I am off to Brazil for a few months at the end of this year? Ha, that’s said tongue firmly in cheek and I do hope if I mention it now and again that it won’t get too annoying, I just keep getting waves of excitement. You know the waves I mean? Plus in the lead up I will be doing my ‘Reading for Brazil’ which today’s title is part of. I personally would have thought that a book that discussed a group of explorers going missing in the Amazon jungle of Mato Grosso (the very state I will be spending lots of time and actually camping in) including all the insects, reptiles, cannibal tribes and other horror stories would put me off. Bizarrely ‘The Lost City of Z’ by David Grann has made me more desperate than ever to go of on an exploring trek in the rainforest.

I doubt that I would have picked up ‘The Lost City of Z’ if it wasn’t for the fact that I am actually going off to spend time in the Amazon, and I would have been missing out on an absolute treat. If you are planning on heading out into the vast jungle then you really couldn’t ask for a better book for warning s of just what awful things can be lurking in the trees, rivers and even the air. It also makes the book rather grisly from time to time, mind you this book is really in the main a jungle from 1911 – 1950 so I am hoping in the now if you had a ‘vampire fish’ making your nether regions a home or were slowly ingested by nesting maggots a nearby hospital might do the trick. Mind you I don’t think anyone could stop the venom of a Jararaca snake killing you very painfully rather quickly. Sorry let me expand on this a little better; I think my excitement and enthusiasm for this book might mean I come across a little disjointed in my thoughts, bear with me.  

In part really David Grann’s book, for it isn’t a novel, is a biography of the life and quests of Percy Harrison Fawcett and what became his obsession of finding the Lost City of El Dorado, a man who I had never heard of and yet a man whose quests and eventual disappearance had the world gripped for years back in the 1920’s. Fawcett had a lust for adventure from an early age and in his life time as well as being an adventurer he was also a spy and fought in WWI, the latter is hinted as the cause of his obsession with the lost city, a kind of coping mechanism for all he saw during the conflict on the battlefield. He became so well known along with his adventures many believe he was the inspiration for his friend Conan Doyle’s ‘The Lost World’ which I am now going to have to read very soon.

It was however his disappearance that made him infamous and became the obsession of not only the press and headlines in the years that followed but of the public. Many people volunteered in the years after and actually went on quests themselves, not to find ‘El Dorado’ – or ‘Z’ as Fawcett called it, but to find the very man who quite literally vanished and either vanished themselves, went mad, died or came back very sick. This happened as recently as 1996 when a Brazilian accountant and his son decided to try. In fact the book then sees David Grann himself going off in search of Fawcett himself and following in his footsteps which itself adds another dimension to the book. I might ask The Converted One if we can go on a little hunt ourselves… maybe?

Grann manages to discuss all of these different threads as well as look at some of the other competing explorer’s expeditions of the same era and never once do you get confused. All the information is digestible and at the same time reads as an adventure in a way. Grann also manages to look at what is happening to the rainforest at the moment which makes the reader pause for thought too. I was really impressed with this book. Non fiction doesn’t normally do anything for me and I actually couldn’t put this book down, in the end finishing it in two sittings. 9/10 (I was going to give this ten out of ten but I have a post coming up on my review ratings this week that will explain why I didn’t!)

Who else has read this marvellous book and can help in my mission to make everyone else give this a whirl? Have any of you read The Lost World, as I love Sherlock Holmes but I am not sure how I will fair with ‘adventure’ stories – mind you I have done well with this one, what did you think of it? Has anyone read ‘Exploration Fawcett’ as I now really want to read that too? Which was the last and/or best non fiction book you have read that totally hooked you from start to finish?

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Filed under Books of 2010, David Grann, Review, Simon & Schuster