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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Life Adventure...
I doubt that I would have picked up `The Lost City of Z' if it wasn't for the fact that I am actually going off to spend time in the Amazon, and I would have been missing out on an absolute treat. If you are planning on heading out into the vast jungle then you really couldn't ask for a better book for warning s of just what awful things can be lurking in the trees,...
Published on 10 July 2010 by Simon Savidge Reads

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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too Disjointed and Diluted for Me
A few months ago, I heard the author interviewed on a radio talk show about this book. I generally like travelogues in which a modern journalist undertakes some kind of journey linked to the past (for example, retracing Marco Polo's route), so I was intrigued by Grann's search for the truth about a British explorer who disappeared into the Amazonian jungle in 1925. I had...
Published on 17 Jun 2009 by A. Ross


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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Life Adventure..., 10 July 2010
By 
Simon Savidge Reads "Simon" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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I doubt that I would have picked up `The Lost City of Z' if it wasn't for the fact that I am actually going off to spend time in the Amazon, and I would have been missing out on an absolute treat. If you are planning on heading out into the vast jungle then you really couldn't ask for a better book for warning s of just what awful things can be lurking in the trees, rivers and even the air. It also makes the book rather grisly from time to time, mind you this book is really in the main a jungle from 1911 - 1950 so I am hoping in the now if you had a `vampire fish' making your nether regions a home or were slowly ingested by nesting maggots a nearby hospital might do the trick. Mind you I don't think anyone could stop the venom of a Jararaca snake killing you very painfully rather quickly. Sorry let me expand on this a little better; I think my excitement and enthusiasm for this book might mean I come across a little disjointed in my thoughts, bear with me.

In part really David Grann's book, for it isn't a novel, is a biography of the life and quests of Percy Harrison Fawcett and what became his obsession of finding the Lost City of El Dorado, a man who I had never heard of and yet a man whose quests and eventual disappearance had the world gripped for years back in the 1920's. Fawcett had a lust for adventure from an early age and in his life time as well as being an adventurer he was also a spy and fought in WWI, the latter is hinted as the cause of his obsession with the lost city, a kind of coping mechanism for all he saw during the conflict on the battlefield. He became so well known along with his adventures many believe he was the inspiration for his friend Conan Doyle's `The Lost World' which I am now going to have to read very soon.

It was however his disappearance that made him infamous and became the obsession of not only the press and headlines in the years that followed but of the public. Many people volunteered in the years after and actually went on quests themselves, not to find `El Dorado' - or `Z' as Fawcett called it, but to find the very man who quite literally vanished and either vanished themselves, went mad, died or came back very sick. This happened as recently as 1996 when a Brazilian accountant and his son decided to try. In fact the book then sees David Grann himself going off in search of Fawcett himself and following in his footsteps which itself adds another dimension to the book.

Grann manages to discuss all of these different threads as well as look at some of the other competing explorer's expeditions of the same era and never once do you get confused. All the information is digestible and at the same time reads as an adventure in a way. Grann also manages to look at what is happening to the rainforest at the moment which makes the reader pause for thought too. I was really impressed with this book. Non fiction doesn't normally do anything for me and I actually couldn't put this book down, in the end finishing it in two sittings.
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Gut-Wrenching History of Amazon Jungle Explorations, 3 May 2009
By 
Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally) - See all my reviews
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If you like to know about real-life adventures, you'll enjoy this book. David Grann writes convincingly in grisly detail about the many dangers and drawbacks of hacking your way through the Amazon jungle to find what might remain of "lost" cities described in legend.

The Amazon basin has been home to many extravagant legends -- El Dorado (where gold is used like talcum powder), Amazonians (beautiful, but dangerous, female warriors), strange "white" men, and bizarre cannibals. One of the most determined seekers in the jungle was British Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, one of the most highly decorated South American explorers in the first part of the 20th century, and a former spy and military officer.

The Lost City of Z recounts Fawcett's last expedition into the jungle, from which he did not return. Since then, lots of people have launched unsuccessful, an often lethal, searches for him. David Grann makes his own, following a route that careful research suggests may have been where Fawcett went. The book's conclusion will surprise you.

The story is written on several parallel planes: Fawcett's life; Grann's search for Fawcett; other searches for Fawcett; and the history of exploration into the blank areas of the global map. At first this will seem disjointed and a little precious. By the end, the parallel story lines wrap around one another to make one compelling tale. It's a very clever design that I admired very much while reading and appreciate even more now.

The book's strength is that you will get a sense of how dangerous and difficult it was to explore in the Amazon jungle. If one thing didn't get you, something (or someone) else did. Fawcett was blessed by amazing stamina, great physical strength, remarkable ability to learn indigenous languages, charm that worked on those who were about to kill him, and a seeming immunity to the worst of the various illnesses that usually beset jungle adventurers. He also didn't like those who didn't keep up or questioned his approach . . . a very hard man to follow, indeed.

The book's weakness is that it deals too superficially with many of the most interesting aspects of the story such as the anthropology of the Amazon basin as understood today, the prior Amazon booms (such as the rubber boom), and the ways that explorers learned their craft.

I was very impressed by the research that Mr. Grann did to look for Fawcett's route toward Z. That aspect of the story is almost as good as the better murder mysteries that I enjoy. It's well told, as well.

I thought that his self-descriptions otherwise were a bit overdone and often didn't ring quite true. Could there have been some exaggeration added for effect?
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic piece of adventurer-historical-detectivesque journalism, 26 Nov 2010
I took this book in the public library by pure chance. I had heard very very vaguely of Fawcett and nothing about the author.
I decided to read the book after having it at home for a few weeks and I could not put it down till I finished.

Serious journalistic approach, daring investigation work...it transports you to the last era of victorian pioneers. It is impossible not to feel you are also questing for Fawcett's adventures and fate.

A real susprise. Give it a chance a get hooked on it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic stuff, 22 Aug 2012
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For any lovers of adventure stories, and conspiracy theories, that sort of thing, this is the book for you. I genuinely couldn't put it down. It's very well written and researched, and will undoubtably have even the most close minded and reluctant of you considering a journey to the Amazon to pick up where Fawcett left off. A great read, you really can't go wrong here.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Amazon adventure in your living room, 14 Jun 2012
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I just loved this book and would definitely recommend it. I picked it up after having read Robert Whitaker's The Mapmaker's Wife: A True Tale Of Love, Murder And Survival In The Amazon. The Amazon jungle is just one of those places that terrifies, yet excites the imagination. I find it incredible that in 2012, there are still parts of the Amazon that no man has ever been to before and tribes that have never made outside contact. How could David Grann, a simple journalist, set out to explore the Amazon, knowing that many before him have failed? I am amazed and impressed and happy he did. I just loved that his quest follows Fawcett's quest. It adds to the excitement and mystery of the story. It is such a gem of a book. I had never heard of Percy Harrison Fawcett before, but his story is both fascinating and tragic. And Jack Fawcett and Raleigh Rimmel? Heartbreaking. There is nothing not to like about this book. It's fast paced; filled with adventure and history; and well worth every minute you spend on it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fawcett sucked up the pain and spat out Chuck Norris like he was nothing but a big top lipped little girl! March on!, 7 May 2012
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I love books and this has to be one of my most interesting finds in quite some time. I've been on the old explorer trail ever since reading Dorian Amos's tales of his life since moving to Canada. This book offers enough background on Fawcett to get you hooked on what happened to him! Some epic grizzly tales of being close to death from exhaustion and hunger- whilst maggots eat you from inside out! Eeeew! The conclusion is worth the effort of this book not just falling back into the "i wonder if" pile and really seems to point towards large civilisations in the amazon and a mysterious death for the people searching to prove just that.
Kinda sad really- makes you appreciate a forgotten time of when men were men and didn't have the safety of million dollar sponserships, the best gear and gps tracking. Exploring has definately changed- these guys were really in the unknown. It's all clear now how modern day adventurers get time to write on twitter everytime they wipe your butt on a pine leaf- there's nothing left to explore!
Fawcett sucked up the pain and spat out Chuck Norris like he was nothing but a big top lipped little girl! March on!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down..., 30 Dec 2011
By 
C. Ball (Derbyshire) - See all my reviews
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This book is about the celebrated disappearance of the explorer Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, who disappeared in the Amazon in 1925, along with his son and his son's best friend, whilst searching for evidence of what he called 'Z', an ancient lost city from a now-extinct advanced civilisation deep in the Amazon.

In his day Fawcett was as famous as Livingston or Shackleton, so it was a huge story. Many search parties set out in search of him, and most of those failed to return either - the author estimates that somewhere in the region of a hundred people have died trying to solve the mystery of Fawcett's disappearance. The most likely story is that they were killed by hostile tribes, but it's the not-knowing that makes the mystery so delicious.

The book functions on several levels: Fawcett's life and previous explorations, the tale of the exhibition on which he was lost, and the author's own quest to retrace Fawcett's steps and try and discover what happened. It's very well-written, and he really manages to get across just how dangerous and treacherous the Amazon still is, how easy it is to get lost, how far away 'civilisation' can seem when you step off the path even for a moment.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfectly judged book, 4 Feb 2010
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A real gem this, and my favourite book of 2009. An absolutely perfect book for those lovers of adventure and old romance, and any who feel that giddy 'grip' on the imagination when they think of El Dorado, conquistadors, clouds of poison darts, perilous rope bridges and cities of gold. I dare say any with a passing interest in South America would also greatly enjoy it. That continent interested me about as much as a bucket of beige paint, but after this wonderful book I have sought out as many books and articles about it as I could - everything from William H. Prescott to Hiram Bingham. None, as yet, have quite satisfied the fascination aroused here - certainly not so wholly as Grann manages to.

Interweaving the modern-day investigations of the author, and the historic efforts of British explorer Col Fawcett to find the Lost City of Z, it is a compelling, fascinating read. A wonderful mixture of old and new. May the author turn his attentions to other such men who walked off the edge of the map and, if they found not the empires of wonder they aimed for, nevertheless mightily enlarged the hearts and fancies of man and boy alike for ages after.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Too Disjointed and Diluted for Me, 17 Jun 2009
By 
A. Ross (Washington, DC) - See all my reviews
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A few months ago, I heard the author interviewed on a radio talk show about this book. I generally like travelogues in which a modern journalist undertakes some kind of journey linked to the past (for example, retracing Marco Polo's route), so I was intrigued by Grann's search for the truth about a British explorer who disappeared into the Amazonian jungle in 1925. I had also read several of Grann's lengthy essays in The New Yorker, and found them all very compelling despite covering quite disparate topics.

Given Grann's background in magazine journalism, it shouldn't be too surprising that his debut book has the feel of being a series of interesting magazine articles that have been collected and expanded. There are three storylines, each of which is somewhat interesting, but fall somewhat short of being truly gripping. Wisely, Grann (or his editors) chose to interweave them, forcing the reader to switch back and forth in time and topic, thus preventing any one storyline from growing too tedious.

The main thread is a retelling of the life and adventurous times of British explorer extraordinaire Percy Fawcett. This is not exactly a new story (Fawcett wrote a ton, as did his brother, son, and others), but Grann manages to unearth a few new sources, thus adding to the historical record. Fawcett's claim to fame was his prodigious work mapping the area around the Bolivian and Brazilian border, which involved epic struggles against the Amazonian jungle. The second storyline is the archaeological/anthropological/historical debate about whether or not the Amazon could have ever supported large-scale civilizations that could have built "lost" cities. The third strand is Grann's own journey through archives, and eventually into the Amazon in search of Fawcett's last known location and his top-secret destination.

While there are nuggets of interesting material throughout, the to-ing and fro-ing between storylines and periods makes for a rather disjointed and diluted read. As a result, the material on Fawcett ends up feeling mostly like a potted history of established material (except for his tracking down of one of Fawcett's granddaughters, who rather incredibly has old notebooks of Fawcett's that Grann is allegedly the first to see). At times, it seems like even Grann grows weary of distilling the Fawcett lore (for example, when he glosses over some of the rescue attempts, including ones by an American WWI vet and one by "a band of Brazilian bandits"!). Meanwhile, the controversy over Amazonian civilization is carefully built up over the course of the book, which makes it feel somewhat gimmicky when Grann finally pulls away the curtain to reveal what the latest research indicates. He must have known all this early on, but chooses to withhold it for a rather stagey "revelation" at the end. But his own role in the book is so understated and undramatic that it's not surprising he resorts to this construction in order to enliven the story and add some much-needed drama.

On the whole, it's not a bad tale, just one that's a little too drawn out for my taste and depends a little too much on teasing the reader. The one element that was consistently surprising and interesting to me was the natural danger present in the Amazon areas Fawcett trekked in. Finally, as a postscript, it dawned on me about twenty pages in that many years ago, as a child, I had encountered a fictionalized Fawcett in the pages of an old Tintin (The Broken Ear), which features a hermit-like white man in the jungle named "Ridgewell" who must have been based on the real Fawcett.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deadly Obsession in the Amazon Indeed!, 10 May 2009
By 
J. Cronin "dudara" (Ireland) - See all my reviews
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I have to give the book its full title "The Lost City of Z: A Legendary British Explorer's Deadly Quest to Uncover the Secrets of the Amazon". Impressive eh? And truth be told, it is an impressive book. It charts the life story of Percy Fawcett, an intrepid British explorer who was the last of the great explorers. It has been suggested many times that the character of Indiana Jones, amongst others, was based upon the larger than life tales of this amazing and fascinating man.

Fawcett disappeared in 1925 in the Amazon along with his son and his son's friend. Over the years he had spent in the jungle, he had become convinced of the existence of a great and ancient civilisation, which he enigmatically called Z. He wasn't the first European to fall into this train of thought. After all, the legend of El Dorado has been around for centuries.

Fawcett's reputation, resilience and strength as an Amazonian explorer was legendary, yet Fawcett had to fight hard to obtain funding for his final expedition. At the time, his ideas were generally disdained. Scientific study of the Amazon declared that, despite the apparent abundance of the jungle, it was generally incapable of sustaining a large human population. The journals and diaries of fellow explorers describe hardship, dense growth, vicious burrowing insects, hostile warlike natives and many incapacitating illnesses. People simply did not believe that a great civilisation once existed in the Amazon.

Fawcett sent many letters from the jungle on his last expedition, describing his adventures for newspaper columns the world over. But the letters stopped and Fawcett was never seen or heard from again. Over the years, stories would emerge from the jungle of a white man seen with native tribes, or the son of a white man, but no definite evidence of the fate of the expedition was ever uncovered.

David Grann is a staff writer at The New Yorker and this is his first novel. He freely admits to becoming absorbed with the subjects about which he is writing. In the case of this book, he decided to follow in the footsteps of Percy Fawcett and venture into the thick Amazon jungle. He studied the surviving Fawcett journals and documents and obtained access to hitherto unread family archives. By piecing together a new perspective on Fawcett, Grann entered the jungle and revealed how Fawcett may not have been that far off the mark after all.

Grann's writing is superb. He moves seamlessly between the past and present. His research into the scientific and historical aspects of the Amazon help form a fascinating and truly entertaining biography of this amazing man and his quest. Fawcett emerges as a character who had the courage of his convictions and an amazing capacity for action. This tale is a fitting tribute to a larger-than-life character.
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