Ignorance, they say, is bliss until of course you have that cold dawning that you're the one that is being ignorant, at which point it's just plain embarrassing! This is how I felt a couple of chapters into David Grann's 'The Lost City of Z'. I had picked the book up in the summer and, if I'm honest, solely due to the cover art and dust-jacket blurb foretelling a great Amazonian trek by an eccentric British explorer. On the surface this was nothing more than a rip roaring adventure yarn set amidst the verdant backdrop of the Amazonian rain forest at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Our hero, a seemingly indestructible Englishmen, with the constitution of an ox and the mindset of a monk, apparently redefined jungle exploration at the time. There appeared to be several other side threads running alongside the main narrative, the most predominant been that of a reporter, seemingly absorbed by the legend. It was shortly after this that I realised my naivety. The Lost City of Z, was actually based on a true account of the life and mysterious disappearance of Percy Fawcett.
|Fawcett in 1911|
Narrated by David Grann, who has taken up the cause, the book charts the life and early career of Colonel Fawcett and is an absolutely fascinating read. We are drawn into the mindset of a sigualrly polarised explorer who was determined to locate evidence of a once considerable civilisation deep in the jungle. His paranoia growing to such an extreme that he trusted no one with the jumping off coordinates for what was ultimately to be his last expedition.
For someone with little knowledge of this period of exploration to one of the world's most inhospitable places, this was a great start. Fawcett is most definitely a man that legends are made of with bushy moustache bristling on a stiff upper lip. Stylistically I was left feeling that the author was stuck between two devices that of narrator and travel writer and subsequently it felt a little cumbersome in places. What I can say is that I am absolutely hooked by the idea of Victorian exploration and adventure, the book highligteng the fate of many who went in search of fame and riches or simply, because it was there.
I know only too well that I will become wonderfully sidetracked in my hobby as a direct result of this book! A well deserved three crowns.