Wednesday, April 8, 2009

a review of The Lost City of Z...and A GIVEAWAY!

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon by David Grann (Doubleday, ISBN 978-0-385-51353-1)

For centuries, there were stories of a huge, developed, ancient city, deep in the Amazon jungle, a city where gold was so plentiful that the Indians ground it into a powder and covered their bodies in it. The Spanish called it El Dorado, the gilded man, after the city's gold covered king. It was a legend that lured many explorers to their deaths in the jungle, but a legend that would not die. In January 1925, Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, perhaps the most famous explorer of his day, accompanied by his son and his son's best friend, set out on what many thought was the best chance to discover the truth of the mysterious city. They set off to great fanfare, entered the jungle...never to be seem again. David Grann, in his first book, The Lost City of Z, sets out both by extensive research with many before unknown documents and by his own trip into the much changed and yet still quite dangerous Amazon, to determine the truth of what actually happen to the great explorer Fawcett....and perhaps to solve the mystery of El Dorado as well.

Fawcett was, in ways, a larger than life figure. It was when he was in the British military, stationed in Ceylon, that he first got a taste for the adventurous life of the explorer. Certainly, at the time, he was not alone in his quest; the Royal Geographical Society in London had an actual school for explorers at their headquarters. But he was certainly one of the most famous, the most succesful, the most colorful and seemed, in some ways, to be indestructible. His greatest adventures were deep into the jungle,
"a wilderness nearly the size of the continental United States, to make what he called "the great discovery of the century"- a lost civilization. By then most of the world had been explored, it's veil of enchantment lifted, but the Amazon remained as mysterious as the dark side of the moon."
On several previous trips into the Amazon, mapping areas of south America only vaguely understood before, when it seemed that all those around him had succumbed to illness, or starvation, or madness, he would emerge from the jungle, months later, even when all hope had been lost. He would always reappear, except that one final time....

For decades, countless have tried to solve the mystery of what happened to Fawcett, perhaps as many as a hundred of them losing their own lives in the process. And yet the mystery persisted, the mystery of the Lost City and the mystery of the most famous explorer that had set out to find it. For his own reasons, Grann, someone who happily admits that he hates to camp, has a terrible sense of direction, can get lost on the subway and prefers his air-conditioned apartment in NYC to the overwhelming heat of the jungle, found himself caught up in the story as well and set out to see if, at last, the truth could be found.

I will leave it up to you, the readers, to find out if he accomplishes that task.

But I will tell you this, that the journey he takes us on, in search of it, is a thrilling and very interesting one. He takes us back to learn about Fawcett, someone who
"wanted to become what Joseph Conrad had dubbed "a geography militant", someone who, "bearing in his breast a spark of the sacred fire", discovered along the secret latitudes and longitudes of the earth the mysteries of mankind."
A soldier, a hero in WWI, a spy for the British, a husband and a father...but most of all a man truly obsessed. He would return home, to the comfort of his family between expeditions then, once again, the feeling would start.
"..before long, he found himself unable to sit still. "Deep down inside me a tiny voice was calling," Fawcett said. "At first scarcely audible, it persisted until I could no longer ignore it. It was the voice of the wild places, and I knew that it was now part of me for ever." He added, "Inexplicably-amazingly-I knew I loved that hell."
Hell is not an overstatement of the conditions he and the others suffered in the jungle, and yet he, and so many others, again and again would return, answering that call of the wild.

The Lost City of Z is a thriller, the story of the history of an era, but most of all, the fascinating tale of one man's obsession. It is also just a very good read that I think many of you will enjoy.

And to help you do that, I am going to give away, to one lucky person, a brand spanking new ARC of the book....since somehow I was fortunate enough to find myself with an extra copy. So if you would like a chance to win, just leave me a comment here. If you would like to actually comment on the book or the review that would certainly be appreciated, but if you would like to be entered to win, just mention that too and be sure to leave a way to get in touch with you. For an extra chance to win, just mention the contest on your own blog and tell me that in your comment as well.
Since I am not a wealthy woman, I am afraid that I have to limit it to US residents, and I will draw the winner...hmmm...shall we say Sunday, April 19th, to give you a chance to say something really clever. Not that it will help your chances, but it is fun to read!

Check out these other great reviews...
A Reader's Respite
Fashion Piranha
At Home With Books
A Bookworm's World
Fresh Ink Books
The Book Catapult
Fyrefly's Book Blog

Also Available From Amazon


  1. The brief description I'd read of the book before was mildly interesting, but your review has solidly put this book on my to-be-read list.

    I'd love to be entered in your contest. So you know, I found you through LibraryThing's ER forum.

    eidolons AT gmail DOT com

  2. I have heard about this book somewhere else...another blogger? Entertainment Weekly? I can't remember anything these days, but I do remember that I really was intrigued with the premise of this book, and I definitely want to read it! Please enter me into your drawing Caite! I'm at rnawrot at cfl dot rr dot com!

  3. Don't enter me. I just wanted to say I enjoyed your review and look forward to reading this book!

  4. This sounds fascinating. I'd love to be entered.

    carolsnotebook at yahoo dot com

  5. No need to enter me. I have this on the TBR shelf at home, and your review makes me want to bump it up. To the top. Right now.


  7. Great review Jersey Girl. Please enter me in this great contest.
    From a former Jersey Girl.

  8. I am fascinated by stories like this. I love to read about people who head off to uncharted territory. And I really, really, really want to read this book so please enter me in your contest.
    I blogged about it here:


  9. I have heard nothing but good things about this book. Great review. I always enjoy reading your blog. Thanks for the chance at the giveaway.

  10. you know the problem with having a contest? that only one person can makes me feel sort of bad.

  11. This sounds great! I loved adventure stories wrapped up with mysteries! I would love a chance to win this book so please enter me. If I remember, I will blog about it (but that is incredibly doubtful as I tend to forget stuff like this and overcommit myself. Sometimes I forget to draw my own giveaway winners on the correct day!). Anyway, great review ... it made me want to read this book.

  12. ....another ticket in the cyper hat....

  13. I wasn't too interested in this book until a friend of mine announced that she is going down to South America for vacation this summer. Now I'm intrigued and want to learn more about the area.... Please enter me!

    agjuba at hotmail dot com

  14. I'd like to enter as I have seen this book around but not until your review did I care about reading it! Thanks! Haven't been by in a while but trying to get to all o my blog list today! Thanks!

  15. well, you just got in under the deadline!
    in fact, I will let the entries settle down for a bit and pick it in the let me get a count....1...2...3....


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