October 08, 2011
The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel
Ayla is a young girl who has been left alone in the world after a horrible earthquake steals her family for her. She sets off alone at the tender age of five and after being attacked by a cave lion and collapsing, she is found by a tribe of Neanderthals who are searching for a new cave after their previous one collapsed in the earthquake. At first they aim to leave her behind, but the clan's medicine woman Iza finds some tenderness for the child and begs to bring her with them. Brun the clan leader decides that she may but feels (and will continue later) like he doesn't know if he has made the right choice or not. Since Ayla is of the "Others" she doesn't have concept of the Clan's language (which is mostly done through sign) and with Creb's (the clan's Mog-ur spiritual leader) help, Iza teaches her not on the language but how to be a proper clan woman as well. Ayla grows quickly and learns at the same pace and Iza decides that she will be a medicine woman as well and begins to teach her the art. In secret though, Ayla begins learning another skill that could put her in danger with the clan. She learns to hunt with a sling. Such things are forbidden to woman and clan woman would never think to hunt, nor to disobey or do anything that isn't of a domestic art, but Ayla is different and cannot abide by such restrictions. Her secret skills are not the only danger to her however; Broud, the proud son of Brun hates Ayla with a passion and will stop at nothing to make her miserable because of his jealousy. Between him and several other trying instances while she lives with the Clan, Ayla has yet to discover if she is truly in her proper place in the world.
The characters in this series are developed really well and every one is important to the story. They all evoke some emotion as well. For example, I can't stand Broud, respect Brun, have affection for Creb and feel that Iza is a motherly figure. Ayla, is a good mix of character and has actions and emotions that are both good and bad and keep her seeming real (this will change in other books of the series but for this one, is done well).
The writing is very descriptive but doesn't slow the story down. There is some violence and rape scenes and if this bothers you, you should probably not read this book. I'm sure there are discrepancies with some historical, botanical, etc. facts within this book, but as I don't know much about any of those subjects, it didn't make a difference in the enjoyment of the book for me.
Overall I highly recommend the series and even the worse of the books is still entertaining. This edition, Clan of the Cave Bear, especially is one of the better books of the series and a good read even if you don't plan on reading the rest.
Clan of the Cave Bear