- Series: Earth's Children (Book 1)
- Mass Market Paperback: 495 pages
- Publisher: Bantam Books (September 1, 1983)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0553250426
- ISBN-13: 978-0553250428
- Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.5 x 6.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,365 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #16,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Clan of the Cave Bear: Earth's Children, Book One Mass Market Paperback – November 1, 1984
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--The New York Times Book Review
"Jean Auel has performed a minor miracle."
--San Francisco Chronicle
From the Trade Paperback edition.
From the Publisher
The stunning epic that stirred the imagination of millions. Here is a novel of awesome beauty and power. A moving saga about people, relationships and the boundaries of love. Through Jean Auel's magnificent storytelling, we are taken back to the dawn of mankind and swept up in the wonderful world of a very special heroine, Ayla. Her enthralling story is one we all can share. A natural disaster has left young Ayla alone, wandering, fending for herself in an unfamiliar land. One day, she is discovered by the Clan of the Cave bear, men and women far different from her own people. Tall, blond, blue-eyed Ayla is a mysterious stranger to the Clan and at first they mistrust her and cast her out. But as she grows to know them and to learn the ways of the Clan, she is welcomed. And as she leads them in their struggle for survival, the Clan come to worship Ayla. For in her blood flows the future of humanity.
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Ayla has to adapt to the similar but different Clan. Their customs, their behavior, and their social relationships are different from humans, but their emotions are so familiar. Ayla has to learn, bending her personality to their rigid practices. But if she can't adapt, the Clan will punish her.
And Broud, the clan leader's son, is eager to see that she fails. Consumed by jealousy, the young Neanderthal will do anything to hurt or degrade Ayla.
Clan of the Cave Bear is a brilliant book. Set in the ice age, Auel's meticulous research into survival tactics, primitive technology, and megalithic wildlife now extinct brings to life the distant past of the earliest humans. Through Ayla, we can get a glimpse of how our ancestors lived and how their cultures developed. The fact she also has a very human story in the character of Ayla's early childhood and coming of age as an adult only makes the story even more gripping.
With great characters, a moving plot, and a fascinating setting, there's a reason that Auel's Earth Children series is so popular! If you're a fan of historical fiction then you need to read this amazing series!
What I think I loved most about this story was the gender dynamics of the Clan. We get a glimpse into a society radically different from those of modern times and yet one that can also be strikingly familiar at times. In the Clan, women are second-class citizens: they are submissive to the men, they depend on the men for leadership and guidance, and they are happy with their roles in life. In part, this dynamic is driven by the developmental limitations of the Neanderthal people -- individuals are incapable of free thought and everything they "know" how to do is genetically pre-programmed into their brains. Men are genetically the hunters and leaders with their stronger bodies and dominant minds. Women are genetically the gatherers, caregivers and mothers. These societal roles are immutable, with change being beyond the capacity of their brains to even comprehend.
The starkness of this dynamic is very well illustrated when Ayla, a Cro-Magnon girl, comes to live with the Clan. Because her brain is wired differently from that of the Neanderthals who rescue and take her in, she constantly finds herself at odds with the Clan's way of life. She questions. She challenges. She desires independence. She struggles with the gender restrictions that the Clan has placed on her to the point of causing her great hardship in the early years of her life.
This hardship, and Ayla's perseverance through it, is also one of the spectacular aspects of this book. Ayla loses her birth parents at a very young age to a natural disaster. She is alone in an unfriendly wilderness as a toddler -- without shelter from the elements or wild animals, without food, without guidance or care. When she is discovered by the Clan, she must learn a new language and fit into a mold in the Clan's society for which she is not physically or mentally suited. She is constantly seen as ugly for her physical features that are unlike those of the Clan and she is constantly being chided for her boldness and independent way of thinking, despite her desperate attempts to fit in.
Ayla's story, much like the future of the Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons, is not one with a happy ending. In spite of all of her struggle and hardship, she finds herself alone again at the end of the book, hardened and wizened, having lost her adoptive parents to death and having lost her son as well as the camaraderie of a people and culture due to her inability to completely submit to the Clan's way of life.
This book was such a fascinating and heart-wrenching experience for me; I am anxious to continue reading the series and hope to see Ayla rise above her hardship and thrive.