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The Clan of the Cave Bear: Earth's Children, Book One Paperback – June 25, 2002
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When her parents are killed by an earthquake, 5-year-old Ayla wanders through the forest completely alone. Cold, hungry, and badly injured by a cave lion, the little girl is as good as gone until she is discovered by a group who call themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear. This clan, left homeless by the same disaster, have little interest in the helpless girl who comes from the tribe they refer to as the "Others." Only their medicine woman sees in Ayla a fellow human, worthy of care. She painstakingly nurses her back to health--a decision that will forever alter the physical and emotional structure of the clan. Although this story takes place roughly 35,000 years ago, its cast of characters could easily slide into any modern tale. The members of the Neanderthal clan, ruled by traditions and taboos, find themselves challenged by this outsider, who represents the physically modern Cro-Magnons. And as Ayla begins to grow and mature, her natural tendencies emerge, putting her in the middle of a brutal and dangerous power struggle.
Although Jean Auel obviously takes certain liberties with the actions and motivations of all our ancestors, her extensive research into the Ice Age does shine through--especially in the detailed knowledge of plants and natural remedies used by the medicine woman and passed down to Ayla. Mostly, though, this first in the series of four is a wonderful story of survival. Ayla's personal evolution is a compelling and relevant tale. --Sara Nickerson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
--The New York Times Book Review
"Jean Auel has performed a minor miracle."
--San Francisco Chronicle
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
This is the first book in a 6 book series that tells the story of Ayla, a 5 year old orphan of OUR species, who is found by the traveling Neanderthal clan. She tries desperately to live within with the customs this ancient race and it is her story of trials, troubles, tenacity and triumph that makes this series unforgettable. It is necessary to read the books in order to understand the story and I'm sure that from the first, you will be as riveted as I was.
I read The Clan of the Cave Bear because it had received incredible reviews, yet it had been banned from so many schools. I decided I just had to discover the reason for this paradox and I did. There are graphic depictions of sexual activity and gory descriptions of hunting. I would not recommend this books for anyone under 14 years old.
The only (minor) complaint I have is that the Kindle version does not label the map to let you know that the story is taking place approximately 35,000-25,000 years ago. It does show the area where it takes place, the change in coastlines during the ice age and the routes taken by the clan as they traveled to the Clan gathering, the mammoth hunt, etc.