Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel; page count 512.
This book, the first in the Earth’s Children Series, was amazing! I can’t believe it took me so long to read it. This first book was originally published in 1980, and Auel finished the series last summer with the publication of the sixth and final book, The Land of the Painted Caves.
The story, the series in fact, follows Ayla, a prehistoric woman traversing through Europe about 30,000 years ago. Clan of the Cave Bear opens with an earthquake which destroys five-year-old Ayla’s home and her family. The child travels alone for a few days, encountering a cave lion along the way, before finally collapsing from exhaustion. She is picked up and rejuvenated by a neanderthal medicine woman traveling with her clan. The medicine woman is allowed to keep the girl even though Ayla is an “Other” (Homo sapien sapien.)
Auel breathes such life and depth into her characters. I love the differences she has created between “Others” and the Neanderthals. I was hooked from the moment I popped the CD in my car. Her landscapes are probably the most stunning thing. She makes it very easy to picture the surroundings. The crispness of the air, the color of the leaves. All of it is very well done.
The brilliance of Auel, however, isn’t in her writing style, which is certainly far above par; it’s in her research. It’s apparent the writer took a lot of time to research and get her facts straight. I appreciate any author who shows a reverence for facts, while making it accessible in fiction. Having read several previous books about human evolution, and watching numerous documentaries on the topic, I can say with some certainty that the history (prehistory?) quite accurate. (I mean, except for the obvious, albeit brief, dip into fantasy, but it’s so small and done so well, that I’ll overlook that bit.) Well, done, Auel!
Needless to say, I’ll definitely be reading the rest of this series. Although I may take a bit of a break in between installations for other books.
If you are interested in more about human evolution, I recommend these sites: http://humanorigins.si.edu/ and https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/genographic/index.html