Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Lost City of Z

by David Grann

In 1925, Amazonian explorer Percy Fawcett went on an expedition with his son, Jack, and Jack's friend, Raleigh Rimell. They were seeking a sort of El Dorado, what Fawcett termed the city of "Z," a place many in his time believed was mythical. For several months, family and newspapers received communiques - and then, nothing. Many bands of explorers have since gone in search of Fawcett, but none were successful.

Intrigued by the mystery, David Grann started researching Fawcett and his obsession with "Z." Grann intersperses a biography of Fawcett with his own search for answers, first through historical documents and then through a visit to the Amazon himself. Fawcett is a fascinating man to learn about, a complex character who on the one hand is a product of his times, growing up in Victorian society, and on the other was a bit of a maverick. I'm not sure I can fully understand the sort of all-consuming passion and obsession that would lead one to drive into the Amazonian jungle and make geological observations, let alone search out a city that many scientists of the day didn't believe existed. I found the dual narratives jarring at first, especially in the beginning when both stories sort of started in the middle, and then backtracked, but once I was a few chapters in, I adjusted and really enjoyed the narrative.

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