review: The Lost City of Z by David Grann

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This review does contain mild spoilers. It’s difficult to discuss this book without them. Read at your own risk, you guys.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – David Grann should write ALL THE BOOKS ALL THE TIME.

Grann is the ultimate in detectives, tracing the path of one Percy Harrison Fawcett (PHF to friends and family), who, along with his son Jack and Jack’s friend Raleigh, disappeared into Amazonia while searching for the fabled city of El Dorado (or as Fawcett called it, simply, “Z”). Fawcett and his team vanished in 1925, so it’s unlikely that any traces of them will ever be found, but what about Z? Grann sets out on a quest to follow Fawcett’s footsteps, and that’s where our journey begins.

Fawcett was, by all accounts, a fascinating, complicated and driven individual, with a singular ability to survive in the Amazon rainforest, as well as to communicate with the Indian tribes that so threatened exploration at the time. One of Fawcett’s many flaws was his inability to understand that others may not have his stamina (he called one member of his team who drowned in a river a “rotter, typical waster” and was appalled that another wanted to stop because their body was infected by maggots… the nerve!) but the end result normally worked in his favour. His explorations came in under time and under budget, and he was a hero of the Royal Geographic Society.

Grann speaks with Fawcett’s existing relatives, reads through his journals and other documents, and manages to find out what others hadn’t. but wait, there’s more…

review: Diana: Portrait of a Princess by Jayne Fincher

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This is an exquisite book about Lady Diana Spencer – who was oft-called “the most photographed woman in the world”.

Jayne Fincher actually seems to care about Diana and knew her – something I think that is lacking in most books that were written hastily in the wake of Diana’s untimely death. She even dedicates the book to the memory of Diana, something I think is important – most of the so-called “tribute” books were written by either publications that used to benefit from the paparazzi’s stalking of the princess, or by people who didn’t know her personally at all.

I was 14 when Diana died, and was devastated by it – she was a personal hero, and I grew up fascinated by her life, her emotions that always seemed so close to the surface and her troubled relationships, be it with her family or her ex-husband. I adored how much she adored her children, how she protected them and raised them to be the men they now are (I often think how proud she would be of William and Harry).

Fincher’s book is more than just a collection of gorgeous photographs (and they are gorgeous – Diana certainly was!) – it’s also a loving remembrance of a woman, a mother and a philanthropist. I think it’s a tribute Diana would have appreciated, given it was written with grace, gentleness and above all, compassion.