Review: The Lost City of Z

The Lost City of Z

The Lost City of Z
By David Grann
(Vintage, Paperback, 9781400078455, January 2010, 448pp.)

The Short of It:

A well-researched treat for the armchair traveler.

The Rest of It:

In 1925, Percival Harrison Fawcett and his eldest son, disappeared on an expedition to find the lost city of “Z”, his name for an uncharted city in the dense jungles of the Amazon. The trip was well-documented by Fawcett himself, but the facts leading up to his disappearance were sketchy enough for explorers everywhere to take a stab at what actually happened. Here, David Grann, a journalist, attempts to unravel the mystery surrounding Fawcett’s disappearance while interspersing his own stories and experiences of visiting the Amazon.

Before reading this book,  I had no idea who Fawcett was. So I was quite surprised at how many explorers have gone out into the Amazon looking for him, only to fail or be killed while trying. Grann, who is definitely not an explorer, but a journalist, gives us a well-researched, methodical account of  Fawcett’s trip. Using Fawcett’s journals and accounts from other explorers, he pieces together that fateful trip. The only problem, and something nearly everyone in my book club noticed, is that Fawcett could have written anything he wanted. Just how accurate were those papers?

The pacing of this book was a tad slow at times and often repetitive since many of the occurrences (parasitic attacks, malaria, etc.) repeat themselves throughout the telling. Overall, I felt as if I were part of the adventure and I do believe that is what Grann intended when he wrote the book. Some of the book club members felt that it could have been edited down a bit. I felt that way as well, but by the end of the book, I understood that Grann was attacking it from all sides and addressing different viewpoints so the extra bit of detail he included, didn’t keep me from enjoying the book.

I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough to discuss but I worried for nothing. Here are some little known facts about Fawcett as noted from Wikipedia:

There were rumblings of a movie in the works with Brad Pitt backing it, but that rumor seems to have petered out.

Readers who enjoy adventure will appreciate this book, as will anyone who appreciates thorough research and tales of obsession.

Note from Ti: The ‘ick” factor in this one is probably a 5 on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being extremely icky. There are maggots and open, oozing sores and casual mentions of cannibalism involving babies but these parts are not overly graphic. Just mentions.

Source: Borrowed
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

24 thoughts on “Review: The Lost City of Z”

  1. I read this a while back and it was interesting and made me feel like “Why have I never heard of this before?” And it did make me want to remain an armchair traveler as far as the Amazon goes. Lots of icky stuff there.

  2. I read this book a few years ago. I liked it but didn’t love it.
    I did find it very interesting – in parts. But also found it kinda slow – in parts.
    I normally do really love books like this though.

  3. Omg those parts sound gross!! I had heard this book was surprisingly good but im sure I won’t read it anytime soon. A movie version would have been interesting though.

    1. I don’t mind the gross stuff. I like the clinical aspect of it, but my book club didn’t care for some of it. Felt there was too much.

  4. I just dug this book out of the pile the other day to read as soon as I can, after reading some very interesting reviews. I sort of decided that I needed a little more nonfiction in my reading diet, and grabbed this one. It sounds like something that would really get me thinking and raise my eyebrows. I don’t really like that it’s repetitive, but I think I might be able to overlook that aspect if the story is engaging. Great review today, Ti!

    1. I read it and also listened to the audio. I’ve been doing that with books when I have time and this is one instance where it reads better than listening to it. On audio, it’s very monotonous.

  5. Hmmm…as usual you are able to reach me with the main point of this book. I read about the Brad Pitt movie, too…and thought it would be great…and I like the Indana Jones factor, too…very interesting but not North Of Need…lol…

  6. I love traveling… and when I can’t I love to be the armchair traveler 🙂
    And so I’m really interested in this book. I had never heard about it (not about Fawcett either, for that matter) but will put it on my TBR list. Thanks for sharing!

  7. This book’s been on my radar for some time and it’s good to hear another positive review. Sounds like a great novel for a book club. I can see how the accuracy of the papers could be called into question. Being the avid armchair traveler that I am, I will definitely look deeper into this one.

  8. This book has been on my radar recently so I was interested when I saw in my mailbox that you had reviewed it. I’m not at all familiar with Fawcett and that’s one reason I’d like to read this book. I also like reading true mysteries and this one sounds good and creepy considering others died searching for Fawcett. I’m also curious about how and where, if Fawcett disappeared, his documentation of the trip was found.
    I appreciate your info that the book’s a bit slow at times and even more, your note about the maggots etc. Just the thought of them makes my skin crawl and I prefer to be prepared rather than surprised when I come upon them in the book!

  9. I keep trying this on audio and not getting very far. Which I’m blaming on the audio, rather than the book. Because it certainly sounds like something I’d like. Maybe I need to find a print copy.

  10. This one’s been on my radar for a long time. Thanks for reminding me about it; think it would make an excellent book that the hubs and I could both read and enjoy.

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