Monday, July 12, 2010

The Lost City of Z

Before reviewing The Lost City of Z one needs to know a little about it's central character; explorer Percy Fawcett.
Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett (PHF to family and friends) was one of the last great explorers. Following a stint in the army stationed in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) Percy Fawcett decided to become an explorer and trained at the Royal Geographic Society. His area of expertise became South America, especially the almost completely uncharted Amazon rain forest. Fawcett was a successful explorer and was well known in Britain for his lectures, he was friends with the writer Arthur Conan Doyle (the creator of Sherlock Holmes) and in fact was the basis for Lord Roxton in Doyle's fantasy adventure novel The Lost World. He was also believed to have been one of the models for Indiana Jones.

The book is the story of Fawcett's last great exploration in 1925, an attempt to find a lost civilization in the jungle, he christened it the City of Z. In 1925 Percy Fawcett, his son Jack and Jack's best friend Raleigh Rimmell went in search of Z and were never heard from again.

In 2005 New York based reporter; David Grann, heard about Fawcett and decided to see if there was anything to the story. Eventually he went in search of Fawcett's final fate and to see if he could locate Z.

The book is largely 2 stories. One is about Fawcett, his interest in exploration and South America and his obsession with locating Z and how it eventually destroyed him, his family and friends. The second of the stories is Grann's search for Fawcett, the man and the quest. Both stories are told in an entertaining manner and have the feel of a historical adventure and detective story rolled into one. The stories of Fawcett and Grann are peopled with interesting episodes and larger than life characters. It's not hard to see why Brad Pitt's production company has optioned the book as a possible future movie project.

The contrast between the hard as nails, indestructible turn of the century soldier/adventurer cum explorer and the 21st century reporter who lives in a city and enjoys his creature comforts was pronounced and at times amusing.

Although Grann never really finds out what really happened to Fawcett and his party he does eventually locate what he believes to be Z.

This was an enjoyable and compelling read and I heartily recommend it. It would be a hard to please reader who wouldn't get something out of The Lost City of Z.

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