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The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
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February 2015 > Lost City of Z Discussion

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message 1: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Thanks to everyone for an interesting discussion of the Rosie Project. The Lost City of Z will be led by Marie Elia on February 23rd!

Marie (marieelia) | 6 comments I'm excited to talk about this! There are a number of copies available through the Buffalo public library, including Clarence, Kenmore, and Orchard Park: http://www.buffalolib.org/vufind/Reco...

Marie (marieelia) | 6 comments Hi, all! I'm curious to hear what you thought. (And if you were as itchy as I was while reading about the bugs!) One thing that really struck me was how supportive Percy Fawcett's wife was. She really advocated for him and supported him, even when it left her in pretty dire economic circumstances. I was also very interested in the quickly developing technological advances at the time--that Fawcett's rival was able to have radios and surveillance equipment that Fawcett did not have access to, without proper funding. The other thing that really struck me was when David Grann was driving around and realizes how much of the Amazon has been destroyed. It was a really poignant moment for me.

message 4: by Maureen (new)

Maureen Adolf First off I had to tell numerous people that NO I was not reading a book about Zombies! Fact is much more intriguing than fiction. This was a fascinating study about a true explorer. Years earlier I read "The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey" (about Roosevelt in the Amazon region). That book was much more difficult to wade through than "Z" due to lengthy descriptions that mostly got in the way of the story.
I enjoyed the writing of this author and truly appreciated the depths of his research. The book could have easily been bogged down by the many facts and timelines that were included. I am sure that there was much information that David Grann had to leave behind in order to make the story flow as it did.I find I can almost divide this book into two sections. One where Fawcett was hopeful (myself along with him) and the second section where Fawcett is older and considered less significant by the world and the exploring community. Even though I knew Fawcett would be lost,I found myself rooting for him to succeed. I felt sad for his wife, always supportive, never knowing how it ended.

message 5: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy I loved this book! Maureen- I felt the same way, the book did feel as if it were in 2 parts with 2 Fawcetts. In the previous expeditions, he seemed almost invincible. But by the last, so much had changed for him, and for the nature of exploration itself. I almost felt like he was going through the motions.

It really is a testament to the skill of Grann- you know it doesn't end well for Fawcett, but this book was riveting.

And yes, the descriptions of the bugs and all of the rainforest maladies gave me major heebie jeebies!

Marie (marieelia) | 6 comments Amy, yes--the book read like fiction, even though we knew, generally, the outcome. But, the ending! A surprise!

message 7: by Maureen (last edited Feb 24, 2015 07:56AM) (new)

Maureen Adolf Marie - did you really feel like the ending was a surprise? I felt it was some what of a "counterfeit paradise" I had the feeling Gran was like enough of the story - hurry up and end. The end did not have the same excitement as the Percy story. Did I miss something?

Marie (marieelia) | 6 comments I guess I liked the slight anticlimacticness of it--like, it was here all along, hiding in plain sight. Which is also kind of sad.

Stacy (yarnylibrarian) | 30 comments Mod
This book confirmed, once again, that I don't have an explorer/adventurer gene in my body, unless the adventure is finding a new yarn store or book shop. ;)

The descriptions of the physical trials and tribulations -- bugs, disease, injuries -- seemed almost mythical in their proportions. It boggles my mind that anyone could live like that, willingly subject themselves to such conditions.

I enjoyed the book, and liked learning about Fawcett and his contemporaries. I was horrified by the racism of the age: these non-Europeans couldn't have possibly created an advanced civilization. I don't mean to imply that our world is perfect now, but I do think we've come a long way from that mindset.

message 10: by Ellen (last edited Feb 25, 2015 09:10AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ellen | 224 comments The Science Friday book club on NPR discussed this title recently. Listen at:


I liked this book a lot. It read really quickly and kept me engaged, despite the fact that the outcome was certain, as others have pointed out. Although there was the sort of surprise at the end of the buried evidence of moats, roads, pottery shards, etc. signifying the existence of a city. That was unexpected and helped to sort of justify Grann's project in my mind.

I guess I'm a wimp, because I can't imagine being so driven that one would endure the physical, mental, and financial hardships that Fawcett did. I also thought Grann was a bit crazy to try to follow in his footsteps, so long after Fawcett went missing. But I did like the device of alternating chapters between Grann and Fawcett.

message 11: by Becky (new)

Becky | 140 comments I enjoyed the book. I listened to it as an audio book. I was surprised by the ending. I felt affirmed that the advance of technology affirmed the past. Sorry if that is too many affirms. But I feel it fits. I felt sorry that Fawcett never got to realize his dream. His family certainly suffered for his ambition. Obsessions and great achievements seem to have that effect on people though.
Happily we have come a long way in the cultural sense. I couldn't live like that either. I could push myself and suffer for a goal but not to that degree.

message 12: by Kath (new) - rated it 3 stars

Kath | 203 comments Mod
I also really liked this book and how it alternated between Fawcett and Grann; I felt immediately sucked in. I didn’t realize that this time period (so recently) was really the birth of modern anthropology. It was interesting to learn about the change in anthropology from kind of gentleman explorer types to more of a scientist with tools and technology.

I have mixed feelings about Fawcett. He was certainly brave and determined but I felt his obsession with this exploration came at all costs, especially to his family; one son loses his life and the surviving wife and son are left in limbo forever. On the NPR link (thanks, Ellen!) there was brief discussion about how Fawcett didn’t take any indigenous people along with him which I didn’t consider while reading. It seems like a no-brainer to have some local connection since it seems that any tribe would rightfully consider a group of white men entering their territory to be a threat. Although there were so many different tribes maybe this wouldn’t have made any difference.

To echo a couple of others, I do not have the mettle to be an explorer. It’s beyond me to imagine taking off for such an undocumented spot on the map and sets me shuddering to think that a bug, worm or weird fish could possibly embed itself somewhere on my person. Yikes!

The ending was slightly surprising to me. I was not surprised that a great city existed, but was a little surprised that it had been so consumed by the jungle that people hadn’t located it before. By the end, when they realize where this great city had likely been and how it had been reabsorbed by the jungle I just felt like the jungle itself was a creature consuming any outsider who dared to enter.

message 13: by Becky (new)

Becky | 140 comments Very good points, Kathy. I think Fawcett's reasoning on taking an indigenous person with him partially was driven by crossing many different territories. One tribe would be offended perhaps by another tribe's presence on their land. I do think there was a little racism involved as well. It seems towards the end of his life, he became more respectful and admiring of the local cultures, though.

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