Friday, May 18, 2018

The Clan of the Cave Bear - Jean M. Auel

The Clan of the Cave Bear - Jean M. AuelThe Clan of the Cave Bear
Jean M. Auel
Bantam
Copyright Date: 1980
978-0553381672

The amazon.com product description:
This novel of awesome beauty and power is a moving saga about people, relationships, and the boundaries of love.

Nominated as one of America’s best-loved novels by PBS’s The Great American Read

Through Jean M. Auel’s magnificent storytelling we are taken back to the dawn of modern humans, and with a girl named Ayla we are swept up in the harsh and beautiful Ice Age world they shared with the ones who called themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear.

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.
It's been a while since I read this one - possibly before Shelters of Stone was published, much less Land of Painted Caves. Definitely it's been long enough that I only remembered the broadest strokes of the storyline. However, I do remember that by the end of the series, the books have long since stretched my credulity as to the impact and number of new discoveries/inventions one person can be part of.

That is my one grumble with this series, but you won't see any of that in the first book. What I did notice this time around was how much foreshadowing of events there was for the later books in the series - especially the third book and later. I'm also completely amazed as to the amount of research that had to have gone into the writing of this whole series - all the details about nearly every aspect of life during the ice age are laid out in these books - tool making, medicinal and edible plants, hunting strategies and so much more. Even better? None of it feels as though it's an information dump on the reader.

I know from reading reviews on sites like Amazon.com that the level of detail that Jean Auel includes in the Earth's Children series isn't going to be for everyone, but I found it quite enjoyable, although there are some things that I feel sure I saw hints of in some of the National Geographic magazines I read as a child (my parents had a collection that went back into the early 1970's, and in fact managed to break the bookshelves we kept them on).

Keeping on the theme of details, Jean M. Auel is a very descriptive writer who incorporates all of the senses into her writing - tastes of the foods being cooked, details of color and texture, plant life, animal tracks etc. for sight, all of the smells of life under scent, sounds of all kinds and even the feel of the things the characters touch. All of it can add up to make an amazingly detailed picture of life in the reader's head.

One thing I wondered about this time reading The Clan of the Cave Bear is how well the author's research has held up to any new discoveries about the Neanderthals that have been made in the nearly 40 years since The Clan of the Cave Bear was first published. Definitely might be a topic worth looking into, given the lasting popularity of this series.

Nonetheless, although there were a few parts of this book that I didn't care for (I found a few scenes to be a hair too far on the graphic side, though I should have remembered that from previous reads), I definitely found it to be a page-turner that kept me going for hours at a time. I've already gotten over a hundred pages into the sequel, The Valley of Horses.

The Clan of the Cave Bear movieAlso, before I forget, there is at least one movie adaptation for The Clan of the Cave Bear - and I think I might have watched it once (according to IMDB it came out in 1985). I can't really remember, although the faces in the trailer on Amazon are vaguely familiar, and I am sure I remember some of the scenes in the movie (and how they were different from the book). I don't remember though how the movie handles some of the more graphic scenes from the book. I've also seen rumors that there was a second adaptation that came out a couple of years ago, though I don't know anything more about it.

To be honest, I can't remember enough about the movie to say whether or not I recommend it, especially given how old it is now, but it definitely says something about the popularity of a book when there is at least one movie adaptation made.

If anyone else can say if they liked The Clan of the Cave Bear movie or not, I'd definitely be curious.
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