Sunday, March 27, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "The Clan of the Cave Bear"

The Clan of the Cave Bear
By Jean M. Auel
Copyright 1980
Crown Publishers
Adult Fiction
5 Bookmarks Exceptional!

Okay, let me just preface this review with the fact that Earth's Children is my favorite, favorite, favorite series of books. However, Ms. Auel is a bit of a, shall we say, methodical writer. Book 6 of the series, Shelters of Stone, came out in 2002 when I was at home with my few-months old baby. And just this month, March 2011, book 7 has been released (Nine years to write a book? Really?) And as much as I loathe the fact that I had to wait so long, I am greatly, greatly, greatly looking forward to The Land of Painted Caves. Of course, I am number 494 in the library queue of 643 readers waiting for this book so it will probably be awhile before it reaches my excited little hands. So in the meantime, I decided to refresh my memories of the rest of the series. And, of course, I started with Book 1, The Clan of the Cave Bear.

This series of books is an historical fiction about a history that we really are making a whole lot of guesses about: the time before history began. The main character, Ayla, is a Cro-Magnon human girl who loses her family in an earthquake and wanders aimlessly until she is found by a band of Neanderthals, who call themselves 'the Clan'. Despite her differences, the Clan take her into their fold. Ayla does what she can to fit in with this new family, but she is hindered by the advanced evolutionary changes that make her so different.

Ayla struggles with submitting to the male authoritarianism of the Clan. She loses her language as she learns to speak with her hands in the way of the Clan. She develops close bonds with the woman and man who care for her, but fights constant battles with those in the Clan who don't want her there.

Auel employs wonderful writing skills to describe the plight of Ayla in this foreign environment. She also emphasizes the plight of the Neanderthals as the reader realizes some of the reasons why that race of humanity disappeared. Auel truly makes an effort to research her material and includes as much "fact" with the fiction as she can (maybe that's why it takes 9 years to write a book!) I took an Anthropology class last year and was reminded just how much Auel takes from actual history and incorporates within the stories. Everything from clothing worn to tools used to the way the cave they called home was organized.
There was a movie made in 1986 based on this first book (and starring Daryl Hannah).
The movie wasn't very good, but it did prompt me years later to start reading the series and I am so glad I did! I even borrowed a bit of the tone from the title when naming my blog.

There is a mystical quality to the story, even though the tale itself is so historically based. There is some adult content in this series, so grown-ups only. But, as you can tell by the fact that this is my favorite book series, I do highly recommend it.


  1. Oh, you've tempted me to read them again. PLEASE tell me, how do you discipline yourself to do anything else once you've started a book? You know, feed your family, do the laundry, go to bed? I have no self control when it comes to reading, and these aren't books you can read in an afternoon.

  2. Yeah I thought that might be where the title of your blog came from. I haven't seen the movie but I've been hearing all over that it sucks.