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Book Reviews of The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
The Lost City of Z A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
Author: David Grann
ISBN-13: 9781400078455
ISBN-10: 1400078458
Publication Date: 1/5/2010
Pages: 416
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.

3.7 stars, based on 131 ratings
Publisher: Vintage
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

19 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

susieqmillsacoustics avatar reviewed The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon on + 1062 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 8
This is a fascinating read. The author brings the history and characters to life in a very authentic and captivating tale. It's a frightening read in many ways as it details the dangers experienced in these expeditions into the jungles of South America. The focus is the mystery of the 1925 Fawcett (father, son, and friend) expedition that vanished, but others are brought in, and the author's own modern day trek, as well. If you go in thinking the rainforest is a beautiful, romantic region, that notion will collapse in light of the harsh terrors residing there. Also, I learned very interesting historical facts about South America and the ongoing research and discoveries. Fast paced and compelling, but, along the lines of Amelia Earhart, it is an unsolved mystery and you will have to draw your own conclusions.
reviewed The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon on + 121 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 5
Book Overview
The Lost City of Z combines true-life adventure, history, biography and travel narrative in one book. The book chronicles journalist David Grann's investigation into the mystery of what happened to British explorer Percy Fawcett, who disappeared in the Amazon in 1925 while searching for the Lost City of Z -- the remnants of an ancient civilization that Fawcett was convinced lay within the jungle of the Amazon.

Grann was not the first person to become fascinated -- perhaps even obsessed -- with Fawcett's fate. Hundreds of others tried to find out what happened, and the majority never returned. As recently as 1996, a Brazilian explorer attempted to find out what befell Fawcett -- and his party ended up being abducted by one of the indigenous Indian tribes that populate the Amazon. Despite the dangers and his unpreparedness for such an undertaking (he had never been camping before!), Grann becomes increasingly obsessed with uncovering Fawcett's fate as he investigates the explorer's life and the clues Fawcett left behind documenting his belief in the existence of Z -- despite many scientists arguing that an advanced civilization could not possibly live and thrive in the Amazon (which many believe to be a "counterfeit paradise").

The book moves back and forth between the past and the present -- alternating between Fawcett's life and Grann's investigation. Along the way, the reader is treated to many interesting historical tidbits (e.g., how the Royal Geographic Society was formed and its contributions to mapping the planet, the influence that Fawcett had on the works of Arthur Conan Doyle) and numerous "adventure tales" about explorers -- as well as the reasons why scientists disagree about whether a city like Z could exist in a place like the Amazon.

Does Grann find the answers he is searching for? Was he able to discover what fate befell Fawcett -- or did he come up empty-handed like everybody else? Is there really evidence of a Lost City of Z? Well, I'm certainly not going to tell you -- you're going to have to read the book and find out for yourself!

My Thoughts
I read The Lost City of Z as part of my Summer Reading Challenge -- and if there is ever a place where you should be an armchair traveler, it is the Amazon. For me, one of the most fascinating aspects of the book was the horrible things that can happen to you in the Amazon. Aside from the hostile native tribes (still a very real threat today), here is just a small sampling of what you might find or what might befall you:

* Bees drawn to sweat (called "eye lickers" by the Brazilians)
* Espundia -- an illness caused by a parasite transmitted by sand flies that destroys the flesh around the mouth, nose and limbs as if the person was slowly dissolving
* Sauba ants that can reduce clothes or equipment to threads in a single night
* Parasitic worms that cause blindness
* Red hairy chiggers that consume human tissue
* Kissing bugs -- whose bite transfers a protozoan that might cause your heart and brain to swell 20 years later
* 6-foot electric eels that can electrocute you to the point of losing consciousness and drowning.

There was also a description of a fish that lives in the Amazon river that attaches itself to the penis or vagina and sucks the blood out of you. I couldn't find the page with that description -- probably because I fainted dead away after reading about it and didn't mark the page. (Just kidding ... about the fainting, not the fish.)

I've always been fascinated with stories of people (almost always men; women just don't seem to do this kind of stuff!) who live through horrific conditions and risk their lives for the possibility of discovering something that may or may not exist. The Lost City of Z (also known as El Dorado) is one of those explorer myths -- like the Fountain of Youth -- that drives men to the point of madness. To give up your life for something like this is beyond me -- but this type of personality almost always has a compelling biography. Fawcett is no exception.

Fawcett's story is truly engrossing and fascinating, and you begin to understand why so many people were drawn to the stories of his exploits and explorations. As Grann writes:

He was the last of the great Victorian explorers who ventured into uncharted realms with little more than a machete, a compass, and an almost divine sense of purpose...[he] was believed to have such unrivaled powers of endurance that a few colleagues even claimed he was immune to death. An American explorer described him as "a man of indomitable will, infinite resource, fearless"; another said that he could "outwalk and outhike and outexplore anybody else."

Yet the flip side to this personality is the toll it takes on the person's family. The book does explore Fawcett's rather unconventional and tragic home life, and I just couldn't help but feel sorry for his wife, sons and daughter who ended up suffering because of his need to return again and again to the Amazon. In fact, his youngest son accompanied him on his final journey into the Amazon.

The book is filled with so many interesting facts, stories and history lessons that I could go on and on about all the fascinating things I learned while reading this book. But it seems silly to keep going on about it here. If what I've talked about here has piqued your curiosity, then my suggestion is to get a copy of the book for yourself!

My Final Recommendation
I thought the book was an excellent read -- exciting, repulsive, enlightening, educational, tragic, and mysterious. Like so many before, the reader is drawn to the mystery of what happened to Fawcett. Was he really on the trail of the Lost City of Z when he disappeared? Is there any evidence such a city even exists? If these questions intrigue you and you enjoy real-life adventure books with a bit of history and biography mixed in, then this book is a must. And if you are considering a trip to the Amazon, I suggest you read this book first and then decide whether you want to go. My guess is you'll change your mind and go somewhere a little more hospitable!
Yoni avatar reviewed The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon on + 327 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
I became obsessed with this intriguing book. It is a fascinating story. I also learned about the Royal Geographical Society among other things. I am adrenaline junkie...from my chair. I love reading about things such as this that I dream to do but in reality would terrify me. This book did not disappoint.
DesertShaman avatar reviewed The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon on + 203 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Well-written book of adventure. The author did a fine job of keeping to the facts as he found them, all the while making it an exciting page-turner.
reviewed The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon on + 15 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
This is an absolutely terrific read...a real-life adventure story that reads like a script akin to Raiders of the Lost Ark. It alternates between the historical early 20th century travels of the British explorer Percy Fawcett and the present day experiences of the author (who writes for New Yorker magazine) in his efforts to replicate Fawcett's journey.
reviewed The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon on + 6 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Excellent, riveting non fiction about one mans obsession....could not put it down...
perryfran avatar reviewed The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon on + 1171 more book reviews
I have always been fascinated by stories of exploration and adventure -- both fiction and nonfiction. When I was younger, some of my favorite books included such pulp adventures as the Tarzan novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the Doc Savage pulp adventures, Jules Verne's novels, H. Rider Haggard, and A. Merritt. All of these were stories of exploration and adventure with many of them including tales of lost worlds and cities. When I got older, I also discovered some real life explorers such as Sir Richard Burton and John Speke, who were in competition to find the source of the Nile River; Stanley and Livingstone; Ernest Shackleton and other polar explorers, etc. It always amazed me how these men had the courage to go into the unknown and do what they did.

The Lost City of Z tells the story of another explorer, Percy H. Fawcett, who at a young age joined the Royal Geographic Society and then was sent off to explore the Amazon.

Fawcett made several explorations of the region and was able to endure when many others had failed. This region was filled with so many things that could kill you or make you ill, including animals, insects, and the native Amazonian Indians. As Fawcett made his explorations in the Amazon, he gradually developed a theory that the Amazon contained a large lost city that was populated by a group of people that prospered there. His theory was based mainly on tales of early Spanish explorers who were seeking the lost city of gold -- El Dorado. Fawcett called this lost city Z. After many years of setbacks, including serving as an officer in WWI, in 1925, Fawcett set out to find Z along with his son and his son's friend. And then the group vanished, never to be heard from again.

This book also tells about the many parties who tried to find Fawcett after he vanished including the author's quest to discover what happened to him as he formed the basis of the book. I really enjoyed this story and the information included about Fawcett (who I had never heard of before this) and others who explored the Amazon in the early 20th century including Theodore Roosevelt. The details of the horrors of the region were also fascinating.

I also read that there is a movie version of this book coming out later this year. See trailer. I'll be looking forward to seeing it! A high recommendation for the book.
DieHard avatar reviewed The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon on
The book was a bit more academic than I had hoped but the description of the expeditions was griping and I was really captured by the number of rescue missions attempt and the cost in human lives. I will not be going to the Amazon anytime soon.
reviewed The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon on + 146 more book reviews
This is the second Grann book that I read. The other one was "Killers of the Flower Moon," which I read last year and gave five stars. "The Lost City. . ." was on some recommended reading list I saw so I added it to my wishlist. I didn't realize at the time that I had already read a book by this author.

Unfortunately, the "Z" book doesn't measure up to the "Killers" book. The "Z" book was OK--only three stars. It was intriguing wondering what happened to Fawcett's last expedition. The author's descriptions of Fawcett's previous trips made the Amazon sound very inhospitable--not a place I would ever be interested in visiting. The story jumps back and forth--one chapter will be about Fawcett's life and the next chapter may be set in the present when the author was doing research on Fawcett and planning to (hopefully) retrace Fawcett's route.

It's been a few weeks since I finished the book so I can't recall what specifics made me decide that it was a three-star book. POSSIBLE SPOILER: One thing that was disappointing was the ending. The author didn't uncover anything with any degree of certainty as to what happened to Fawcett's group. So, the mystery still lingers.
bukwurm avatar reviewed The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon on + 15 more book reviews
Interesting, not only for the story of the explorer, but for the details of how truly dangerous exploration was in those days.
gsisk avatar reviewed The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon on + 188 more book reviews
This is the story of one of the last individual explorers of the early 20th century: the Englishman P. H. Fawcett, who explored the southern part of the Amazon from about 1905 to 1925. He led several expeditions until WWI, then - his last one, from which he never returned - in 1925.

The author also briefly describes a few "rescue expeditions" launched after Fawcett's disappearance, which were also lost, as well as his own exploration into this area of the Amazon a few years ago.

Contrary to the prevailing opinion at the time (and until not so long ago) Fawcett became convinced that the Amazon is hiding the remnants of a once great civilization who left behind a great city, "Z" - the mythical El Dorado. He came close ... but apparently was killed, together with his son and a family friend, by hostile Indians.

The author concludes the book by recounting a conversation with archeologist Michael Heckenberger, who lived for years among the Indians in that area, and who showed him remnants of moats, pottery and settlements that ultimately prove that Fawcett and accounts of the early conquistadores were right.

It's a fascinating story.
c-squared avatar reviewed The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon on + 181 more book reviews
Good enough that I recommended it to my husband, father & father-in-law. Does that make it a "guy book"? At any rate, I loved how Grann interwove the story of Col. Fawcett and his family, a brief history of British exploration, background about the Amazon, and his own research and exploration following Fawcett's trail.
reviewed The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon on + 1775 more book reviews
I obtained this through the kindness of Ms. Bidwell (Whitney, Texas) for the shelf at the old soldiers' home. It is written by an experienced journalist (Pulitzer Prize winner) who started with careful research in libraries and archives before spending considerable time on the ground. So, while it is a well worn story of the disappearance of Fawcett while on an expedition in Brazil, Mr. Grann shares details about what the Mato Grosso is like at the start of the 21st C. "'Only the Indians respect the forest,' Paulo said. 'The white people cut it all down.' Mato Grosso, he went on, was being transformed into domesticated farmland, mcuh of it dedicated to soybeans. In Brazil alone, the Amazon has, over the last four decades, lost some two hundred and seventy thousand square miles of it original forest cover--an area bigger than France."
Col. Fawcett long was interested in treasure troves. He hired workers to dig for the jewels of the Kandyan kings. "Fawcett, despite his failure, relished his flight from everything he.n knew. 'Ceylon is a very old country, and ancient peoples has more wisom than we of today know,' Das told Facett. That spring, after reluctantly returning to Fort Frederick, Fawcett learned that Archduke Franz Ferdinand, a nephew of the Austro-Hungarian emperor, was planning to visit Ceylon. A gala party was announced in Ferdinand's honor, and many of the rulline elite, including Facett, turned out."
My copy is the 14th printing of the paperback edition, so this book sold very well.
Illustrations, maps, bibliography, endnotes, and index.
Shervivor avatar reviewed The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon on + 97 more book reviews
I really tried to finish this book. But, alas, I gave up. If felt like the never ending story of Percy Fawcett, a British explorer who explored the Amazon. Fawcett didn't want anyone else to find the wonderful City of Z and refused to let anyone know his planned course. The result was that he disappeared in the jungle along with his son. Basically, this is a mystery that will never be solved and Percy Fawcett was a boringly obsessed man. I made it three quarters of the way through and realized I really didn't care what had happened to Fawcett.
reviewed The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon on
Excellent book for anyone interested explorers.
reviewed The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon on + 389 more book reviews
This book was interesting on more than one level. The reports from the explorers of their experiences are fascinating. The character of Fawcett is interesting as well and the interest the world had in him that seems to continue is surprising. I also didn't know we had a president who tried his hand at exploring the Amazon. The dangers and deprivation and horrors and suffering these people put up with to do this kind of exploration is beyond my comprehension. In this book the author is one of many who become obsessed with trying to find out what happened to Fawcett and did he find the lost city he was sure he could find - the one with streets paved in gold as the myth goes. Fawcett never returned from his last effort. At the end of the book I was considering what these explorers went through including their families - particularly Fawcett's who basically lived in poverty. I can't think of anything their mapping of this area accomplished except to upend the lives of the natives who lived there and changing their way of life which is not necessarily a change for the better. Also, the cutting down of the forest is sad and not good for anyone. I think it would have been better if everyone, the Spaniards included, had left South America alone. It seems to me that all the suffering and deprivation and lives lost in this exploration effort did nothing positive for anyone except to get their names in the headlines on and off. Interesting book that cemented my determination not to do any exploration in South America - or probably anywhere. Makes the Appalachian Trail look like a walk in the park.
reviewed The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon on + 8 more book reviews
Excellent true story that reads like a novel.
leecat2 avatar reviewed The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon on + 43 more book reviews
I give this a four because, the author's own journey is collapsed into such a small fragment of the book. He is, though, the least interesting part of the book, so perhaps, it is a good thing.
I was carried away with the stories of Amazonian exploration. It is easy to feel impassioned from the luxury of one's armchair, but traveling there has never seemed tempting. The realities of the area are vast humidity (most friends who visited that area could not keep the mold off of their clothing), heat, starvation for newcomers, etc.
After all of the racism, cruelty, slavery, greed that marked early explorations, it is a relief to find that archaeologists are now finding the lost civilizations and their locations.
A tale not for the faint-hearted. I had to fast-forward through much of the cruelty revealed.
reviewed The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon on + 619 more book reviews
This is a real-life adventure story that, as others have said, reads like a novel. I did not like the way the book was structured, leaving nearly all the recent evidence for ancient civilizations for the very last chapter and presenting it all in a rush. I did not believe that the author was discovering all of that for the first time in that chapter. For me that took away from the "true life" element of the book. With that said, Fawcett (the main character) comes off as a larger-than-life swashbuckler, but I'm not sure whether to see him as a brave hero or as more like Don Quixote.