The Lost City of Z by David Grann
Audiobook (read by Mark Deakins)ISBN-10: 0739376985ISBN-13: 978-0739376980Random House AudioUnabridged edition2009
I first heard about The Lost City of Z when I attended the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference in 2010. The session with the author, David Grann, and another author, Hampton Sides, was my favorite session from the conference. Well, nine months later I finally listened to the audio version of the book. Driving by not too long ago, I whipped in just to pay a visit to my beloved neighborhood library. I haven’t been there lately because I am all wired in to everything now and have been voraciously reading on my Kindle and Kindle for Mac. But something compelled me to stop by and I came out with three books and Z in the audio version. I went to the “New” section and immediately found the books. The audio section was nearby and I saw Z and grabbed it, too. All week I listened to this excellent non-fiction audiobook to and from work and finished it at home on the weekend.
I knew the premise of the book from the Mayborn, and I enjoyed listening to this book immensely. Before that conference, I had never heard of the Amazonian adventurer, Percival Harrison Fawcett. What an interesting life he led, eventually disappearing in the jungles of Brazil on a quest for a lost city, along with his eldest son, Jack, and Jack’s best friend, Raleigh Rimell, in 1925.
Dispatches from the adventurers, up until the point when no guides would lead them any further, was big news at the time. Fawcett was already well known to the world from previous excursions into the jungle and he was a prominent member of the Royal Geographical Society. I learned that Fawcett had many friends in the Society, in Brazil, and elsewhere, but he also had his detractors. He had the reputation of expecting too much from the members of his parties that had previously explored parts of the jungle and this may have led to his demise in the end. Also, he was the type of person that rarely got sick (some sort of natural immunity to the fevers, etc., one typically gets in the jungles) and saw weakness in others that were not as hearty as himself.
–Jack Fawcett and Raleigh Rimmel
What I found most interesting about this book was that David Grann followed his path down to Brazil and into the jungle himself to try to ascertain what happened to Fawcett all these years later. Mr. Grann is a journalist for the New Yorker and had a very young son and wife worried about him in New York. He did not seem the explorer type when I saw him at the conference. Now that I have listened to his amazing account of what he found out about Fawcett, I have even greater respect for him than I already did after hearing him speak at the conference.
Parts of the book made me a little nauseous, I must say. Mainly what made me feel nauseated were the vignettes about the cannibal tribes and stories of pirahanas and anacondas and the insects. I was on the edge of my seat when I was listening to Mr. Grann’s description of his trek alone for some miles near the end of his journey. He showed his true grit, for sure.
I did not enjoy the reading done by the actor Mark Deakins. For me, his voice was just too announcer-ish and did not have enough emotion. I did persist through eight disks of approximately 45 minutes each, however. This is a book that would have been great if read by someone such as Jason Salkey (British actor who played Rifleman Harris in the Sharpe series), even though Mr. Grann is American. Or someone with a little more character in his voice.
I enjoyed learning about Fawcett’s wife, Nina, and her never giving up hope of her husband not being dead. As with many people after World War I and who suffered great losses in their lives, she also turned to spiritualism. Fawcett had served in the British Army during the Great War and was gassed and suffered greatly during that conflict. Nina Fawcett always supported her husband and son and what they were trying to accomplish long after they disappeared.
If you search the internet, there are a lot of conflicting stories and theories still concerning Fawcett to this day. Apparently, Brad Pitt is slated to star in a movie about Fawcett. I think he would be a good choice in the role, since he did a fine job in Seven Years in Tibet. I hope the movie comes to fruition.