Saturday, July 10, 2010
BookLook Review "The Lost City of Z"
“The Lost City of Z”
Glancing around the pool at a Park City resort recently to see what people were reading (I do it all the time!), I noticed they weren’t reading anything I would really like. The already tanned teen girls were oiled up and turning the pages of the latest “Twilight” clone. The mommies glanced up at their splashing kids from the pages of a celebrity biography and the grandmas were covered up in the shade weeping over another Nicholas Sparks. I was reading a fascinating nonfiction bestseller titled ”The Lost City of Z” by David Grann, slathered in sunscreen under an umbrella between the grannies and the mommies. Ah, vacation reading – read whatever you want because no one you know is watching!
Grann became obsessed with the story of legendary British explorer Percy Fawcett. In 1925 Fawcett, his son Jack and Jack’s friend Raleigh disappeared in the jungles of the Amazon searching for the lost city of Z – an El Dorado. Like Amelia Earhart, his mysterious disappearance launched expeditions to search the dangerous jungle for his story and evidence of his remains. Included in the book are historical pictures and a photo of the Washington Post headline, “Deep in the Fearful Amazon Jungle, Savages Seize Movie Actor Seeking to Rescue Fawcett”. Not only did Fawcett and his party perish, but several others disappeared searching for him.
Despite the failure of previous searches Grann is determined to solve the mystery. He and a large staff of researchers spend years reading published and unpublished letters and documents trying to piece together the probable route of the small Fawcett party. Unfortunately, like many explorers of his time, Fawcett was secretive to the point of paranoia. He didn’t want any other competing expeditions to get there ahead of him. His secrecy and lack of communication during the trip made it seem impossible to solve the mystery of his disappearance without traveling into the dangerous Amazon jungle. Consequently, Grann takes a Brazilian guide and sets out to find the city of Z and clues about what really happened to Percy Fawcett.
I bought this book for my son Chris who spends a lot time in the jungles and ancient ruin sites of Guatemala and Mexico doing research. I have highlighted the critical passages where blowfly maggots crawl out of your elbows and indigenous residents attack you if you don’t take precautions. It’s just a little motherly advice and a “vacation” book to read in his hammock during his upcoming jungle expedition.