The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
I started this book so I could get rid of it. I bought the book years ago at a used book sale. The paperback is from around 1986. Its pages are all yellow and the spine had already started to come apart. I dug this up from my book stash after dinner at my parents’ home. I am glad I did as the book proved to be engaging.
It moves along at a very steady pace with lots of details of prehistoric times. I liked most of the Clan characters. I even got use to Ayla being basically perfect by prehistoric and modern terms. I liked that with the exception of the villain Broud, the books characters seemed reasonable and human. Like Ayla, I began to love Iza and Creb. I thought those relationships were sweet and real. Ayla’s coming of age, learning, and her trials were decently written and even believable. The pacing is quite good. I read this book once on a weekday night then picked it up before bed on a weekend. I found it hard to put down and finished it in the middle of the night. I actually have not read a book late into the night for awhile. I really shouldn’t read novels like this before bed. It did give me that pleasure of reading a novel that makes you forget your problems and your world.
There was a lot to like about this novel and I look forward to the next book. When it came to how I would rate it, I just couldn’t give it a full four stars. The writing had some deficiencies that I couldn’t ignore. For example, there was a lot of repetition. Ayla is constantly referenced as being “ugly” because she is “Other”/ Cro-Magnon. This is irony as we know Ayla’s blonde and blue-eyed looks are not ugly by modern terms. The author kept hammering that detail. The villain of this novel is a cartoonishly grotesque sociopath who is obsessed with hating Ayla. While there were small attempts to give him more depth, he was just too broadly drawn and lacking rationality in everything. I think it may have been an intentional choice by the author to make him that “backward” but it makes you wonder how the other Clan members could sustain it throughout the years.
The novel had some moments where the omniscient narrator waxed a little too much about how intelligent Ayla is because of her “frontal lobe” and her birth as an Other. That was a bit too modern and superimposed. I did not mind the supernatural or ritualistic aspects, but the science interjections were incongruous to the story especially when it was basically tacked in after one of the character’s point of view.
All in all, these were minor issues. I wouldn’t say this novel is essential reading, but there was a lot of research and effort. I liked the characters and the pacing and setting were relatively well done. I will read the next book, but I may not finish the series as I’ve read the series becomes more of a romance drama with even more anachronistic elements.
Read October 15, 19 into the morning of the 20, 2019.