The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
A natural disaster leaves the young girl wandering alone in an unfamiliar and dangerous land until she is found by a woman of the Clan, people very different from her own kind. To them, blond, blue-eyed Ayla looks peculiar and ugly–she is one of the Others, those who have moved into their ancient homeland; but Iza cannot leave the girl to die and takes her with them. Iza and Creb, the old Mog-ur, grow to love her, and as Ayla learns the ways of the Clan and Iza’s way of healing, most come to accept her. But the brutal and proud youth who is destined to become their next leader sees her differences as a threat to his authority. He develops a deep and abiding hatred for the strange girl of the Others who lives in their midst, and is determined to get his revenge.
According to the front cover, “The Clan of the Cave Bear” is the “most beloved saga of our time.” But if it is so beloved, how is it that nobody I know has read it?
It was certainly a fascinating book, and a book about neanderthals is naturally going to have a certain novelty. (Ha. Ha. Novelty.) I found the story and characters intriguing, and I had a hard time putting it down, even if it did take me four weeks to read.
However, I had an issue with pacing. The conflicts were rarely conflicts. Auel would create an issue, then build and build to it, then it would just … disappear. Nothing would happen. But then in the last hundred pages or so conflict after conflict after conflict happened right on top of each other, never waiting for the last one to resolve. After all of that empty build up it felt … anticlimactic to me.
Also, it was really difficult for me to accept that a cave-woman would have strong feminist leanings. Especially in such a male dominated society. It took women thousands of years to think and do the things Ayla thought and did. It killed the authenticity of the world for me.
Finally, I didn’t much approve of the ending. It was a clear set-up for a sequel, but I didn’t like the direction that Auel decided to go. I don’t think I will be reading any of the sequels. That being said, I enjoyed “The Clan of the Cave Bear” and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in pre-history.