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THE CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR
I look forward more and more to the books my son brings home from school, as he is introducing me to 'children's' works that were not written when I was at school - many years ago!
It amazes me just how good some of these so called 'children's books' are, and how much, as an adult, I enjoy reading them.
My latest dip into his English Literature work was 'The Clan of the Cave Bear' written by Jean Auel (pronounced owl).
Seemingly this book, written in 1980, is the first in the 'Earth's Children Series', there are five books altogether.
After reading this book I shall certainly be looking for the remaining four, it was astonishing.
Jean Auel is an American writer born in 1936, who is most famous for this Earth Series that is set in prehistoric Europe and explores the interactions of Cro-Magnon people with Neanderthals.
Jean Auel's books are epic works. She devotes years into the research for and writing of each work. And you can tell the difference.
Ms. Auel is a woman who has taken lessons to learn how to construct an Ice Cave, who has learned how to make arrowheads, done immaculate research into herbalism and who has taken great effort in making sure that every last detail of her work is as accurate as she can make it.
She is a very clever lady, she has, in fact, been a member of Mensa since 1964, who did an incredible amount of research into the Palaeolithic era to make these books as authentic as possible.
At the start of this wonderful the book we are introduced to a young Cro-magnon girl, who has been orphaned by a massive Earthquake. She wanders without food for days until she is attacked by a Cave Lion.
The earthquake has also left a tribe of Neanderthals homeless, and they find the unconscious child as they are looking for a new cave to call home. The medicine woman of the tribe, Iza takes the child along intending to heal her and winds up loving her as her own in spite of her peculiar ways.
Ayla (as the Neanderthal tribe has come to call her) both amazes and frightens the members of the Clan. With her fine white-blonde hair and that strange "bony knob beneath her mouth" she is obviously one of the Others, known only through story and rumour.
Her eyes water when she is upset and she bears her teeth making strange breathy noises when she is happy. She babbles incessantly and has no sense of how a proper female should act.
In 'Clan of the Cave Bear' we watch as Ayla grows-up. She learns the ways of her foster-family. And gradually wins many of them over. but not all of them. One individual in particular holds more hatred towards this child than anything I have ever seen before. Broud is the next in line for the leadership of the Clan. He thinks everyone should be in awe of him. Whenever he accomplishes a great feat, it's unfortunately at the same time something Ayla does that gets talked about. He feels cheated every time she gets all the acclaim and he does not.
The life that Ayla is forced to live with the tribe does not come naturally to her. Submitting to the men of the tribe, not being allowed to hunt and speaking only with gestures and guttural vocalizations for emphasis.
Despite her best efforts it seems that Ayla will never truly fit in. She will always be different. But can she live a happy life with the Clan anyway?
The author's pacing in this book is amazing with lots of rich descriptions. I can't recall ever reading a section that felt boring or never wanting to turn page after page to find out what's going to happen to poor Ayla. The characters are very well developed; gradually you learn all about each of them, their motivations, their fears and their innermost thoughts
All of the characters are so well developed that every one of them feels as close as family afterward. I didn't want to read about certain favourite characters dying. I gritted my teeth when Clan members did bad things because the characters really came to life for me.
Ayla is such an immense character. She's strong, clever and interesting, and she's got real depth, it's very easy to get swept up in her life as you read.
It's also enthralling to read about life in the Clan, too- Ms Auel's detailed descriptions of daily life paint a fantastic and vivid picture of them and reading this book is alike having the film playing in your head because the action and characters are so clear. A few Clan members' characters stand out more than others (it's easy to get the less-important ones mixed up), but Broud, Brun, Creb, and Iza come alive just as much as Ayla does.
The book dealt not only with the personal development of one individual - Ayla, but how she changes the people and the world, around her; as well as dealing with the conflicts that can arise between cultures. It deals with issues we can all relate to such as familial love, anger, fear and isolation.
It also forces us to look within ourselves as to out definitions of "masculine" and "feminine" as well as to see spirituality in another way.
Overall, this is an enthralling read, a book that is full of emotional depth, that has moved me to smiles and tears. I can't believe that it is classed as children's literature and I would have no problems in recommending it to older readers.
It is a long bok at almost 600 pages long, but those pages fly by.
If you like historical fiction or fantasy books, you will love "The Clan of the Cave Bear." There's something for everyone action-packed hunts, a heroine's quest for acceptance, drama, and beautiful descriptions of a time very different from ours.
I would say that anyone form the age of around fourteen would love this book.
The full list of the Earth's Children Series are:
1. The Clan of the Cave Bear, 1980 2. The Valley of Horses, 1982 3. The Mammoth Hunters, 1985 4. The Plains of Passage, 1990 5. The Shelters of Stone, 2002
Ms Auel is currently writing the sixth book in the series.
'The Clan of the Cave Bear' was made into a film of the same name, starring Daryl Hannah, in 1986.
For information on the film go to http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090848/
For more information on the Earth Childrens books and Jean Auel visit her website at http://ecfans.com/
For more details on the Palaeolithic Era in Europe go to: http://www.oldstoneage.com/montetwhite/introducti on_2frame.html
For more details on Neanderthals go to: http://www.ecotao.com/holism/hu_neand.htm
· Paperback: 592 pages · Publisher: Coronet; New Ed edition (4 April 2002) · Language English · ISBN-10: 0340824425 · ISBN-13: 978-0340824429 · Product Dimensions: 17.7 x 11.1 x 4.2 cm
This book and all in the series are available at the moment on Amazon for pennies.