The Lost City details one journalists fascination and research about the 1925 disappearance of the famed explorer Percy Fawcett in the Amazon Jungle. David Grann was working on a story about the mysterious death of the last Sherlock Holmes expert when he came across an interesting tidbit about the inspiration behind Arthur Conan Doyle's “The Lost World”. The inspiration apparently had come from an early 20th century British explorer named Percy Fawcett who had gone missing in the Amazon jungle. Grann's interest was piqued and he began to pull up old newspaper articles about the explorer. The sensationalized headlines were exciting enough, the stories of famous movie actors and rival explorers who had tried to retrace Fawcett's route in order to find him were interesting enough but what really sucked Grann in was what Percy Fawcett had been searching for in the jungle in the first place. He had been searching for the Lost City of Gold; El Dorado. David Grann first recounts the back story, and believed route of Percy Fawcett using old newspaper stories, information from the Royal Geographic Society where Percy Fawcett was a member, and interviews from surviving descendants. Interspersed with Percy Fawcett's biography is David Grann's own journey to discover what happened to the intrepid explorer. Grann's story manages to be just as interesting as the biography of Fawcett. The book culminates with Grann's own venture into the jungle in an attempt to retrace the footsteps of the man who had gone before. The trip does not pan out as he would hope, any trace of Percy Fawcett is most certainly gone for good but Grann does learn something that puts the trip into perspective. The Lost City of Gold may very well have existed, just not on the same fantastic scale as Percy Fawcett imagined.
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Best part of story, including ending:
I like the sense of closure at the end of the book. David Grann does not find the lost city or any fresh clues as to what happened to Percy Fawcett but by the end of the book, he comes to simply appreciate that some mysteries will remain unsolved, swallowed up by the jungle and appreciates the exciting adventure he got to undertake as a result of his research into the story.
Best scene in story:
The very last scene is very favorite. Grann and his guide are attending a party in the Kuikuro village and it is here that the guide begins to point out some of the aspects of the culture that would have been practiced a thousand years ago. The old and the new blended together in one village. As the dancers and musicians swirl around the main plaza, Grann looks out over the party and for a moment he is almost able to imagine himself in the Lost City of Gold. I thought this was a nice end to the journey. Grann didn't find what he was looking for but still the ending had a tone of hopefulness.
Opinion about the main character:
The focus of the story is Percy Fawcett and all that we know about him is from newspaper accounts and interviews from his surviving descendants. I both admired his tenaciousness and unwillingness to give up on his dream of finding the city and also disliked him because that same tenaciousness put a strain on his family who he left behind to essentially fend for themselves. At times, he seemed very selfish to me.