The Lost City of Z

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have to start this review by mentioning how speechless this book made me at times.

Whether it was learning about all the tens of ways you could die in the jungle, the tens of ways people did die in the jungle and the tens of ways people avoided dying in the jungle, I still can’t decide which I am more in awe of. One thing is for sure however, the description of the jungle being a ‘Green Hell’ is one that stays vividly in my mind.

This book is unique in that the author is actively following in the footsteps of the man he is writing about. Imagine an author writing on T.E. Lawrence while making the same trek across the desert dunes as he did, or an author writing about Columbus while crossing the Atlantic Ocean. It is fascinating to be a part of a journey in the past and the present. I would have expected the back and forth switching between the past and the present in different chapters to be annoying, but the intensity of the story in both timelines left me captivated either way.

Reading about Percy Fawcett and his adventures into the Amazon bring us back to a time not so long ago when there were still blank spaces on the world map. These were the last remaining places on earth which remained a mystery. Fawcett ventured into the Amazon on multiple occasions, he encountered native tribes, some more friendly than others and experienced all types of trials imaginable. Each time he returned to civilisation with news and hope of a hidden civilisation in the jungle. This civilisation had a magnificent city in the jungle, with abundant gold, jewellery and riches just waiting to be discovered. The world was captivated, and almost 100 years later reading this book, so was I.

This book touches on the more human side of his expeditions, the effects they had on his family – most notably his Wife Nina. We can only imagine the patience this lady must have had to have her husband be away for months, if not years, at a time. This was only exacerbated by Fawcett’s final, ill-fated journey into the Amazon in which he took his eldest son Jack. Jack was a Son truly standing in this Father’s footsteps. He seemed to take after his Father in every aspect and Fawcett was proud to bring him along with him. Imagine Nina’s heartbreak and suffering when they both (along with Jack’s childhood friend Raleigh) disappeared, never to be heard from again.

Many have since made wild speculation on what happened to Fawcett. Did he find the Lost City he called ‘Z’? Did he meet his end at the hands of ferocious native tribes? Was he captured by these same tribes, or did he simply choose to live in the rainforest and not to return to civilisation? Was he transported into a spiritual dimension? At points throughout the past 100 years, all of these have been considered as possibilities. The fate of Percy Fawcett has become as elusive as the lost city he dedicated his life to.

Since then, numerous more explorers have entered the jungle looking for any trace of him. Some returned with wild stories, others were never heard from again. The Author himself travels to the Amazon Rainforest in search of an answer and meets with the very same tribes, including the last eyewitness to his final movements in the jungle. She was still alive at the time of writing the book, and I can only applaud the Author for meeting her while she still present.

Was there a lost city? Who knows? Recent scientific evidence points to overwhelming human developments, moats surrounding huge settlements, wide walkways spanning between such settlements once existed in the same area Fawcett had been searching and which he disappeared in. and Intricate pottery scattered all around only seems to lend credence to the theory that an ancient civilisation once thrived in what explorers have called the ‘Green Hell’.

Had he been right about the city but just been a few hundred years too late? Only time will tell, and even then we can’t be sure.

If you have any adventurous streak in you whatsoever, this book is for you.

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