The Lost City of Z is both the tale of Percy Fawcett’s multiple expeditions to find the mythological City of Z (El Dorado) and David Grann’s, “expedition” to discover, once and for all, what happened to Percy Fawcett? What did happen to Percy Fawcett? At times it plays out like an inception-style story of the author searching for previous expeditions that were searching for the Fawcett expedition. There is plenty of mystery and intrigue in the book. Percy Fawcett comes across as a fascinating figure. All the trials and hardships that the jungle has to offer him and his men, his son included, inspire a sense of respect and wonder. I was particularly impressed with his conviction to approach all native tribes peacefully, even when they were under attack. He would have his men play music on a concertina, and wave a handkerchief to try and befriend the local tribes-people, even while being shot at with poisonous arrows. There is one chapter in the book where he steps out of his boat and wades across the river towards the angry, attacking, natives and hands their leader his hat, and it worked!
Even more fascinating is the jungle itself and all the terrifying ways that it can kill you. There are wild animals, deadly diseases, poisonous plants, hostile native tribes, monsoon rains, constant threat of starvation, foot rot, piranhas, and some pretty horrifying insects that do some pretty horrifying things to your body. I admit that I do enjoy a good non-fiction adventure travelogue, and typically they inspire me to go hike a mountain or want to travel to a new country, or go on a lengthy outdoorsy trek of my own; however, this book made me want to stay as far away from the Amazonian rain-forest as I can. That being said though, I thought it was great, very intriguing, well written, and is much deserving of a place in the genre’s canon, if that’s a thing. Five stars from me.
(P.S. I watched the movie after reading the book and felt that it really missed the mark in capturing the spirit and feel of Percy Fawcett, the Jungle, and all that is encompassed in the legend of the Lost City of Z. It wasn’t bad, but it didn’t really do the book justice, in my opinion.)