Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel (CBR-IV #23)

Cannonball Read IV: Book #23/52
Published: 1980
Pages: 516
Genre: Historical Fiction

Jean M. Auel's Earth's Children series was apparently pretty popular back in the 80's and even spawned a notoriously bad movie in 1986. Having been written five years before I was born, I never heard of the series until a few years ago. I've had the first book on my to-read list for a quite a while, but just recently got around to it. I guess it took me a while to pick it up because it's not really the sort of novel I would normally read, but something in the premise must have struck my interest to buy it in the first place. 

The book follows a little girl named Ayla as she gets lost from her mother during an earthquake some 35,000 years ago. Auel shines in making the Ice Age world come to life, even though sometimes I felt that the literal pages and pages of plant descriptions might have been overkill. Ayla (who is five years old when she loses her mother), wanders around in the woods delirious from hunger and is almost killed by a cave lion before she is stumbled upon by a Neanderthal clan of people who call themselves The Clan of the Cave Bear. The Clan reluctantly decide to "adopt" her after their medicine woman develops an attachment to Ayla.

The book follows Ayla's struggle to fit in with the Clan's laws and customs as she grows up. She looks nothing like anyone in the Clan. She is tall, blonde, and regarded as ugly to the other Clan members.  Most of the Clan eventually accepts her, but there are a few who oppose her being part of the Clan since she is an "other". 

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. It's not a subject I would normally read, but Auel is a gifted author who can tell a great story. I'm actually looking forward to picking up the next book in the series.

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