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

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

15 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

TRUTH CAN BE STRANGER THAN FICTION

This book revives a once popular figure that time had reduced to obscurity - Percy Harrison Fawcett. It describes his early explorations in parts of Bolivia, Brazil and Peru - usually just referred to as "the Amazon". It describes what is known of Fawcett's last explo...
This book revives a once popular figure that time had reduced to obscurity - Percy Harrison Fawcett. It describes his early explorations in parts of Bolivia, Brazil and Peru - usually just referred to as "the Amazon". It describes what is known of Fawcett's last exploration to find El Dorado as well as expeditions by others to find El Dorado or to discover the fate of Fawcett, his son Jack, and his son's friend Raleigh.

Part of the attraction of the book is the presentation of the unique character of Fawcett. He proves that truth can be stranger than fiction. Fawcett was tougher than the fictitious Indiana Jones although Fawcett maintained the way to survive attacks by the most hostile natives was to refuse to fight them. He and his handful of companions in all but his final journey survived almost unbelievable odds and hardships through his mental and physical strength. It was obvious that Fawcett could be admired from a distance, but was probably justifiably seen as insensitive, obsessed and ruthless by his traveling companions. Part of the attraction of the book is the reconstruction of the era of the amateur, gentleman explorer, the public's fascination with them, and the Royal Geographical Society and similar organizations that funded them.

The book also dispelled some of the romantic notions about expeditions to the Amazon. I might be willing to subject myself to the stereotyped hardships - heat, thirst, hunger, snakes, crocodiles, violent natives and even piranhas. However, after reading about the hordes of bloodthirsty mosquitoes, gnats, bees, ants and termites intent on leaving victims gory and blind, gruesome flies that plant maggots beneath the skin, and horrific vampire bats that swoop down in packs to rip flesh open, I was left amazed that anyone that had somehow survived such horror once would be willing to face it again.

The reader is somewhat discouraged throughout the book as the ending appears to be apparent. The obvious assumption is that Fawcett's luck finally ran out and he and his party were violently killed by hostile natives. Also El Dorado obviously was never found or the discovery would have been heralded. The author's determination to discover the actual route of the Fawcett party leads to a surprise ending that justifies Fawcett's obsession and his revival from obscurity.

posted by LN_Adcox on March 21, 2009

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Most Helpful Critical Review

6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

Meh

I love treasure hunts and exploring. But i also have a weakness for animals. I understand the need to learn about new species but i couldnt handle reading about horses being forced to stay in the river with swords so the men could see how long theyd survive with electri...
I love treasure hunts and exploring. But i also have a weakness for animals. I understand the need to learn about new species but i couldnt handle reading about horses being forced to stay in the river with swords so the men could see how long theyd survive with electric eels. I got a little under half way through before quitting. It bothers me to leave a book unfinished but i cant read about the experiments.

posted by Anonymous on December 29, 2011

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  • Posted March 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    TRUTH CAN BE STRANGER THAN FICTION

    This book revives a once popular figure that time had reduced to obscurity - Percy Harrison Fawcett. It describes his early explorations in parts of Bolivia, Brazil and Peru - usually just referred to as "the Amazon". It describes what is known of Fawcett's last exploration to find El Dorado as well as expeditions by others to find El Dorado or to discover the fate of Fawcett, his son Jack, and his son's friend Raleigh.

    Part of the attraction of the book is the presentation of the unique character of Fawcett. He proves that truth can be stranger than fiction. Fawcett was tougher than the fictitious Indiana Jones although Fawcett maintained the way to survive attacks by the most hostile natives was to refuse to fight them. He and his handful of companions in all but his final journey survived almost unbelievable odds and hardships through his mental and physical strength. It was obvious that Fawcett could be admired from a distance, but was probably justifiably seen as insensitive, obsessed and ruthless by his traveling companions. Part of the attraction of the book is the reconstruction of the era of the amateur, gentleman explorer, the public's fascination with them, and the Royal Geographical Society and similar organizations that funded them.

    The book also dispelled some of the romantic notions about expeditions to the Amazon. I might be willing to subject myself to the stereotyped hardships - heat, thirst, hunger, snakes, crocodiles, violent natives and even piranhas. However, after reading about the hordes of bloodthirsty mosquitoes, gnats, bees, ants and termites intent on leaving victims gory and blind, gruesome flies that plant maggots beneath the skin, and horrific vampire bats that swoop down in packs to rip flesh open, I was left amazed that anyone that had somehow survived such horror once would be willing to face it again.

    The reader is somewhat discouraged throughout the book as the ending appears to be apparent. The obvious assumption is that Fawcett's luck finally ran out and he and his party were violently killed by hostile natives. Also El Dorado obviously was never found or the discovery would have been heralded. The author's determination to discover the actual route of the Fawcett party leads to a surprise ending that justifies Fawcett's obsession and his revival from obscurity.

    15 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 9, 2010

    An Amazing and True Story!

    The classic story of one man acting on his beliefs and going against the traditional thinking of his time. It was very rewarding to learn that Colonel Fawcett was correct in his beliefs about about civilization in the Amazon. This book made me realize how the traditionalist thinking of government and academia resist the advancement of knowledge to preserve their invested positions and beliefs. Mankind's knowledge advances despite these institutions due to the courage of individuals that are willing to go against the conventional and traditional thinking promoted by these instigutions. A VERY good read!

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Reads like fiction, but it's all true...

    Subtitled: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon --

    Who hasn't watched the movies where an explorer or adventurer discovers a lost world or civilization? I personally am fascinated by the whole idea that there may still be some untouched or unfound something out there.

    The Lost City of Z isn't fiction - it's an incredible true story. In 1925 famed explorer Percy Fawcett set out to find the fabled city of El Dorado or as he referred to it - The Lost City of Z. Dispatches were sent back documenting his journey for the first two years, but then he and his expedition vanished - no trace of them ever to be heard of again. Many others followed, looking for Fawcett or his golden city. None have ever found it.

    David Grann, a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine, became enthralled with Fawcett's story as well. Grann discovers some of Fawcett's old journals that give him additional information on Fawcett's planned expedition. He decides to head to the Amazon himself and trace the explorer's route.

    What follows is an absolutely riveting tale. The history of Fawcett and other adventurers bent on mapping and mastering the Amazon is utterly fascinating. The book alternates between Fawcett's time, drawing on newspapers, journals and letters to present a real picture of his time and Grann's own growing obsession and pilgrimage. I had to keep reminding myself that this was real - documented history. I honestly couldn't put it down. Does he discover what happened to Fawcett and his lost party - well I'll leave that for you to explore.

    Brad Pitt is rumoured to be starring in a film version of The Lost City of Z coming out in 2010.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 6, 2010

    An Interesting Read

    Well written with an excellent pace despite a barrage of factoids and dates, this well researched book provides a peek into the psyche and motivations of all those individuals that call themselves "explorers". Structured around a biography of the mysterious disappearance of British explorer Percy Fawcett while searching for the lost city of Z, the author does a great job of weaving the culture and prevailing thinking of the times and the mystery of the wilderness around the Amazon River.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2013

    I really enjoyed this!

    This was one of those reads that just leaves you amazed at the world we live in. It would have been great for fiction, and it is just incredible that it is not. Goes between present day and the story of the explorer the author is trying to find, and both tales are riveting. One of the few books I told other people about while I was reading it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 22, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Interesting and informative account of British explorer Percy Fawcett's obsession with finding an ancient "lost" city in South America.

    A well-written, although sometimes hard to follow, account of the attempts by British explorer, Percy Fawcett, to find the location of an ancient city that was supposedly inhabited by an advanced and very wealthy Indian civilization. His efforts are reported by the book's author, David Grann, who attempts to track Fawcett's last journey into the Amazon river region of Brazil where Fawcett and his companion were lost and never heard from again. The descriptions of Fawcett's courage, determination and perseverance are remarkable and mark him as a truly special person. He was also strongly supported in every way by his wife who, to her death many years after his disappearance, never gave up hope that her husband was still alive and would someday return.
    A good adventure story that provided an insight into the mentality of those who risk their lives and suffer greatly while trying to increase the world's knowledge of little-known places and societies.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 12, 2010

    great non fiction for the fiction reader!

    I have to first say that I am a tried and true non fiction reader! You'd be hard pressed to find a fiction book on my shelf that has been more than leafed thru. That being said...I loved this book. At the check out, the clerk recommended it to me and I was leary, but once I started reading it, I was hooked. Very adventurous and fun. I was ready to go on a treasure hunt when I was done reading it! buy this book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 20, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Learn something new every day

    I never heard of the British explorer Percy Fawcett before picking up this book. But I learned so much about him and the obsession as the many followers who either tried to locate the missing explorer in the Amazon jungle or theorize what had become of him. David Grann did a wonderful job of researching this individual and has written a straight forward history of the man and his mission. He has also made it exciting as he tries to make the same journey into the Amazon and records his own tales and findings. This is a very interesting book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 8, 2014

    Great read. 

    Great read. 

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  • Posted February 25, 2013

    good true story

    excellent historical account.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 15, 2013

    Recommended for explorers of the unknown

    I had seen a TV program on the search for what happeded to Col Percy Fawcett's last expedition searching for the City of Z. This is provides much more background information and maybe answers where he dissapeared. Very interesting if you are interested in lost civilizations and ancient history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2012

    Interesting

    Very interesting book to read. A little boring at times but it does leave you wondering.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2012

    Pulled into adventure

    Loved the book! I love reading stories I had no idea really existed and learn about fascinating people of history. The Lost City of Z is an excellent read and makes you think for weeks after about what really happened at the end.

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  • Posted October 2, 2011

    Good

    Good book

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  • Posted September 17, 2011

    !

    !

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  • Posted July 20, 2011

    Fawcett or Z?

    Grann knows how to tell a good story. Even better, he does not have to resort to fiction in his account of Fawcett, the self-made explorer who searched, in the early part of the 20th century, for what has been described as "El Dorado" or simply "Z".

    His ability to portray the fascination (and dedication) of Fawcett with the Amazon region is remarkable. Detailed research, a clear grasp of the sentiments that drove Fawcett, and first hand experience all combine into a tale that is gripping from beginning to end.

    Well, nearly "the end" since the discoveries that Fawcett may, or may not, have made, are described in just under three pages. Perhaps slightly anti-climatic (or did Grann want to dedicate another book to the subject?).

    Nevertheless, a good read and hard to put down halfway. Wish more could write like Grann.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Fascinating Look At Obsession

    In the late 1800's and the early 1900's, popular imaginations were excited by the explorations of the many gentlemen explorers who through courage and daring pushed the boundaries of human knowledge. The exploits of men like Teddy Roosevelt, Roald Amundsen and Sir Richard Francis Burton were exciting to those left behind, and their discoveries moved the boundaries of what was known of the world we inhabit.

    Another of these explorers was Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett. From a military background (although the Colonel title seems self-imposed), Fawcett had early successes in his explorations. He concentrated on taking small expeditions over land, and trying to befriend rather than confront the natives of the various countries he explored.

    Like several other explorers, he became obsessed with the Amazon. The common viewpoint was that the Amazon was populated by primitive tribes, who had never developed an extensive civilization. Fawcett came to believe otherwise; he believed there was a rich, ancient civilization with huge cities and extensive laws and population. Unable to find traces of this city, he mounted one final expedition in 1925. By then, exploration was starting to change. No longer was the gentleman explorer the preeminent authorities. Scholars and scientists were taking over the expeditions, which become large, fully funded enterprises with scientific equipment. On Fawcett's last trip, he took only himself, his son Jack, and Jack's best friend Rawleigh. They entered the forest and were not heard from again.

    David Grann has written an entertaining account of this period of history, the men who explored and the forces that were changing exploration. He follows Fawcett's accomplishments and weaknesses, and the massive reaction to his disappearance. It is estimated that over one hundred additional people have died hoping to find Fawcett or the true explanation of his disappearance. Always engaging this book is recommended for readers with a sense of adventure who like to read about the ways our world knowledge has been expanded.

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  • Posted March 24, 2011

    An adventure worth reading about

    This is like reading about the real Indiana Jones.

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  • Posted March 16, 2011

    Slow start, good book.

    This book takes some time to get going, but its worth pushing through. The author does a good job switching between his adventure in the Amazon, and his very thorough historical account of Fawcett's life. A very interesting inight into a new world.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 28, 2010

    Great Read

    Great read. Wish he had provided more references or further reading for those interested in pursuing the topic further. In the end I loved the book and can't wait to see the movie.

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