The Literary Horizon: The Lost City of Z, The Sheen on the Silk

Travel is this week’s theme, as a British explorer loses himself in a quest for El Dorado and a woman travels to Byzantium to clear her brother’s name.

The Lost City of Z by David Grann

A grand mystery reaching back centuries. A sensational disappearance that made headlines around the world. A quest for truth that leads to death, madness or disappearance for those who seek to solve it. The Lost City of Z is a blockbuster adventure narrative about what lies beneath the impenetrable jungle canopy of the Amazon.

After stumbling upon a hidden trove of diaries, acclaimed New Yorker writer David Grann set out to solve “the greatest exploration mystery of the twentieth century:” What happened to the British explorer Percy Fawcett and his quest for the Lost City of Z?

In 1925 Fawcett ventured into the Amazon to find an ancient civilization, hoping to make one of the most important discoveries in history. For centuries Europeans believed the world’s largest jungle concealed the glittering kingdom of El Dorado. Thousands had died looking for it, leaving many scientists convinced that the Amazon was truly inimical to humankind. But Fawcett, whose daring expeditions helped inspire Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, had spent years building his scientific case. Captivating the imagination of millions around the globe, Fawcett embarked with his twenty-one-year-old son, determined to prove that this ancient civilization–which he dubbed “Z”–existed. Then he and his expedition vanished.

Fawcett’s fate–and the tantalizing clues he left behind about “Z”–became an obsession for hundreds who followed him into the uncharted wilderness. For decades scientists and adventurers have searched for evidence of Fawcett’s party and the lost City of Z. Countless have perished, been captured by tribes, or gone mad. As David Grann delved ever deeper into the mystery surrounding Fawcett’s quest, and the greater mystery of what lies within the Amazon, he found himself, like the generations who preceded him, being irresistibly drawn into the jungle’s “green hell.” His quest for the truth and his stunning discoveries about Fawcett’s fate and “Z” form the heart of this complex, enthralling narrative.

via Amazon

I stumbled upon this while checking the Paperback Row section of The New York Times Sunday Book Review, and it immediately caught my attention. British explorers, unexplained disappearances, and a quest to discover a mythical city in the Amazon? Sounds like a good time.

The Lost City of Z appears to be a hit among book bloggers–Nicki at Fyrefly’s Book Blog loved it, although she wished her ARC had a map (which, I believe, the final product does). Jenny at Shelf Love was only left wanting numbered end notes, which are apparently out of fashion these days. All in all, it definitely sounds like it delivers. Onto my TBR you go, book!

The Lost City of Z was published on February 24, 2009.

The Sheen on the Silk by Anne Perry

New York Times bestselling novelist Anne Perry, the undisputed Queen of Victorian mysteries and the author of an acclaimed series set during World War I, now broadens her canvas with her first major stand-alone book—an epic historical novel set in thirteenth-century Constantinople, where a woman must live a lie in her quest to uncover the truth.

Arriving in the ancient Byzantine city in the year 1273, Anna Zarides has only one mission: to prove the innocence of her twin brother, Justinian, who has been exiled to the desert for conspiring to kill Bessarion, a nobleman. Disguising herself as a eunuch named Anastasius, Anna moves freely about in society, using her skills as a physician to manoeuver close to the key players involved in her brother’s fate. With her medical practice thriving, Anna crosses paths with Zoe Chrysaphes, a devious noblewoman with her own hidden agenda, and Giuiliano Dandolo, a ship’s captain conflicted not only by his mixed Venetian-Byzantine heritage but by his growing feelings for Anastasius.

Trying to clear her brother’s name, Anna learns more about Justinian’s life and reputation—including his peculiar ties to Bessarion’s beautiful widow and his possible role in a plot to overthrow the emperor. This leaves Anna with more questions than answer, and time is running out. For an even greater threat lies on the horizon: Another Crusade to capture the Holy Land is brewing, and leaders in Rome and Venice have set their sights on Constantinople for what is sure to be a brutal invasion. Anna’s discoveries draw her inextricably closer to the dangers of the emperor’s treacherous court—where it seems that no one is exactly who he or she appears to be.

Richly detailed and finely wrought, The Sheen on the Silk is a bold and brilliant work that affirms Anne Perry’s talent as a master storyteller.

via Amazon

Ever since reading The Persian Boy, I’ve had a fondness for eunuchs in historical fiction, and finding a female heroine disguising herself as one seems a stroke of genius that I can’t believe I haven’t stumbled across before. The fairly rare setting of Byzantium and a woman seeking revenge for her brother’s murder caught my eye as well, and, of course, a gentleman falling for the heroine while she’s in disguise. Most intriguing.

Marcia at The Printed Page finds it delightful and engrossing, even declaring it a favorite of 2010 this early in the year. Mary of Mary of Many Colors posted her glowing review on Sunday, in which she praises the economic writing and the outstanding characters across the board. Ah, March, come here a little sooner, won’t you?

The Sheen on the Silk will be released on March 23, 2010.

4 thoughts on “The Literary Horizon: The Lost City of Z, The Sheen on the Silk

  1. Even if the maps aren’t in the final version (although I’m pretty sure they are), they are still up on his website. Thanks for the link, and I hope you enjoy the book!

  2. There is no getting away from it, the Fawcett story is fascinating. It’s sad in a way that if the expedition returned safely without finding the Lost City of Z, Fawcett may have been forgotten, However, with their disappearance they have in a way, been immortalized, capturing the imagination of many as to what happened to them.

    As to David Grann’s book, yes it was well written and kept me turning the pages, although I did flip past some of the Grann parts as I thought there was just too much about Grann’s personal expedition into the jungle, that to me got in the way of the what should have been the main Fawcett story.
    The payoff of what grann’s reports as the possible Lost City of Z is not believable to me, but that is my personal opinion.
    I want to read a book that actually discovers the Lost City of Z. I want to find out out exactly what the lights that never went out were. Something that Grann doesn’t achieve in his book. But all may not, like the City of Z, be lost, as my new book called Amazon Adventure is due for release shortly. http://www.fawcettadventure.com (Fiction) The book actually continues Fawcett’s journey into the jungle from Dead Horse Camp, Fawcett’s last known possession, to reach the Lost City and to go inside.
    My previous book, Lost Tomb of the Knights Templar is about solving clues in an old church to find some 2000 year old artefacts, chests of gold and a tomb with a mummified corpse. (http://www.benhammott.com)

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