The Lost City of Z

Written by David Grann
Review by Juliet Waldron

Since the 15th century when Spanish invaders first contacted indigenous people in the Amazon basin, there have been rumors of a fabulous El Dorado, or City of Gold. Over the next five centuries many explorers have attempted to discover this legendary site. Some disappeared into the “Green Hell.” Others went mad or were kidnapped by local Indians. Therefore, in 1925 when the then famous explorer, Percy Fawcett, his twenty-year-old son, and his son’s best friend headed into the Amazon wilderness, the expedition was trumpeted by newspapers on every continent. Fawcett (who called this lost city “Z”) was one of the last of a fabled breed of intrepid, stiff-upper-lip gentleman explorers. Mysteriously, and like others before, his party utterly vanished. Today the search continues, in one of the few last wild places left on earth. David Grann, a staff writer at the New Yorker, is a modern day victim of the “Z” obsession. The Lost City is actually two stories, Fawcett’s and the author’s. An accomplished journalist, Grann searches first through the explorer’s paper trail—there is an impressive bibliography and copious notes—but it isn’t enough to simply do the research. Eventually, the author finds himself entering the same lethal jungle. This book has drive and narrative flow; it is enormously readable. If there is even a little bit of Indiana Jones in your soul, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this one.