Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Lost City of Z- Review

Book: The Lost City of Z
Author: David Grann
Publisher: Doubleday

Goodreads Summary:

A grand mystery reaching back centuries. A sensational disappearance that made headlines around the world. A quest for truth that leads to death, madness or disappearance for those who seek to solve it. The Lost City of Z is a blockbuster adventure narrative about what lies beneath the impenetrable jungle canopy of the Amazon.

My thoughts:

Wow, who wouldn't want to read it after a build up like that!! I have always been interested in explorers, especially from this era of the gentleman explorer. I loved that men of that time period could go to school through the Royal Geographic Society and graduate as an "Explorer". How cool would that be? I can just picture this group of khaki clad men wearing pith helmets and smoking a pipe, roughing it out in the jungle but still remembering tea time. Or really, that is what I would like to imagine, since in reality these men did endure terrible conditions and harrowing situations. And, like Pecy Fawcett and his men and their quest for Z, some never returned from the "green hell".

I really loved this book. It was not an easy read, in parts I felt like I had to hack through areas with a machete myself to get through some sections, but for the most part I found it interesting and educational. I have a degree in history, so I actually do enjoy reading about the past. As I said, some of it was tough to get through. I didn't want to know quite so much back story on past expeditions, but I guess the author couldn't really tell much about the last one, since that is the mystery- what happened to Fawcett and his men? Grann pursues the answer to this question, following in the footsteps of other expeditions that hoped for the same thing- and all of these other expeditions died or disappeared as well, with only one exception in 1996, where the group managed to nearly escape with their lives. I wanted to read more about Grann's journey to the Amazon, and to his answer. The end felt kind of like an afterthought, to hurry and finish the book, by the time the novel really started discussing Grann. Maybe this is because we have made exploration so much easier, with our GPS systems, all-terrain vehicles, helicopters. The same things that make exploring easier and safer, kind of detracts from the over all adventure of it all.

The book was fascinating- the thing that got my attention the most was the accounts of the insects and how very destructive and dangerous they were to the intrepid who took their chances in the jungle. Fawcett was said to have a "freakish constitution", able to keep moving at a grueling pace, on an empty stomach, and did not fall prey to the psychotic fauna like the rest of his men. He was not sympathetic to those who could not handle as much as he could, and no one really could. They faced things such as maggots that will burrow in healthy flesh, malaria carrying mosquitoes, millipedes that will squirt cyanide, it seems that all the insects are lethal and made to kill you in terrible disgusting ways. There is even a "kissing bug" that bites you on the lips, and you don't feel the effects until twenty years later, when you have safely assumed you have survived the Amazon experience. And if the bugs don't kill you, the fish or the natives will. Or you will starve to death. Not a pleasant undertaking, when you look at all the potential ways you could die. These men were brave and ground breaking, and didn't profit well from it- or at least Fawcett didn't. His family was practically destitute, but he gave his life for science and the pursuit of knowledge, and the world gained from his bravery.

So did Grann find out what happened to Fawcett? You will have to read and see what you believe.

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