Tuesday, June 28, 2011

June is Audiobook Month: REVIEW: The Lost City of Z, by David Grann

The Lost City of Z, by David Grann. Published 2010 by Vintage. Audiobook version narrated by Mark Deakins. Nonfiction.

The Lost City of Z is a fascinating book of history and memoir, the story of adventurer Percy Fawcett and his obsession with a lost city deep in the Amazon jungle; his last failed mission to find it; and the people and times that made the Amazon what it was- and what it is today. It's also the story of author David Grann's efforts to make his own attempt at solving the mystery of Fawcett's final disappearance into the jungle along with two others, his son and his son's best friend.


Along the way, the reader is treated to some Victorian social history, the story of South American colonization and exploitation and much information about the conditions of jungle exploration, in the days when the Amazon really was almost completely untouched. With all the bugs, disease, heat, starvation, dehydration, dysentery and hostility, it's enough to make this New England girl want to never leave the city again! In all seriousness though, Grann conjures up images at once frightening, fascinating, breathtaking and heart-stopping. Listening to narrator Mark Deakins rattle off the litany of insect menaces, tropical diseases and apparently non-stop dangers the explorer faced, one wonders how anyone could be prepared to take it on.

Telling for me is the comparison Grann draws between Arctic and Amazon exploration; in the Arctic, stress comes not just from the cold but from the absolutely unchanging landscape. You look at the same thing, all day, every day, with no variation. In the jungle, you're bombarded by a never-ending series of dangers, always changing and never letting up.

And when Fawcett, a fearless and gifted explorer of the jungle, brings along an equally gifted explorer of the Arctic, as he does in what makes for one of the most riveting stories in the book, you can believe it doesn't end well. Also compelling is the story of James Lynch, a modern Brazilian finance man who takes an interest in Fawcett's final mission and endeavors to find out what happened to him. To find out what happens to Lynch, you'll have to read the book. Grann tells the first half of Lynch's story at the beginning, to hook the reader in, and it works; you'll want to stick around for the end of this tale!

Finally, there's the story of Grann's own attempt at Amazonian exploration. There was a touch of Bill Bryson in A Walk in the Woods in Grann's adventures, which start at his local outdoors store and take him some places he doesn't quite expect. All in all, I'd strongly recommend The Lost City of Z for the reader interested in the outdoors, in the history of science and the history of indigenous peoples in the New World- and for any reader who wants to do some armchair traveling with a great storyteller. I liked listening to the audio over reading for this one; Deakins' narration helped me to visualize the settings and all the crazy things these people go through in pursuit of their obsessions. It's a great summer read, however you choose to enjoy it. And you'll appreciate your can of OFF more than you ever thought you could!

See more information about June is Audiobook Month here.

Rating: BEACH

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review.