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The Land of Painted Caves: A Novel (Earth's Children) Hardcover – March 29, 2011
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From Publishers Weekly
Thirty thousand years in the making and 31 years in the writing, Auel's overlong and underplotted sixth and final volume in the Earth's Children series (The Clan of the Cave Bear; etc.) finds Cro-Magnon Ayla; her mate, Jondalar; and their infant daughter, Jonayla, settling in with the clan of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonaii. Animal whisperer and medicine woman Ayla is an acolyte in training to become a full-fledged Zelandoni (shaman) of the clan, but all is not rosy in this Ice Age setting; there are wild animals to face and earthquakes to survive, as well as a hunter named Balderan, who has targeted Ayla for death, and a potential cave-wrecker named Marona. While gazing on an elaborate cave painting (presumably, the Lascaux caverns in France), Ayla has an epiphany and invents the concept of art appreciation, and after she overdoses on a hallucinogenic root, Ayla and Jondalar come to understand how much they mean to one another, thus giving birth to another concept—monogamy. Otherwise, not much of dramatic interest happens, and Ayla, for all her superwomanish ways, remains unfortunately flat. Nevertheless, readers who enjoyed the previous volumes will relish the opportunity to re-enter pre-history one last time. (Mar.)
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What began 30 years ago with Auel�s best-seller The Clan of the Cave Bear (1980), namely the phenomenally popular Ice Age�era Earth�s Children series, comes to an end in the sixth installment. Now a wife and mother, Ayla lives among the Zelandoni, the people of her mate, Jondalar, but she hasn�t forgotten the ways of the people who raised her. Ayla is training to become a spiritual leader, and her devotion to this calling takes its toll on her union with Jondalar. On their journeys, Ayla and her friends contend with earthquakes, a band of marauding rapists, and even an outbreak of prehistoric chicken pox. When Ayla and Jondalar get wistful for the days when they were alone with their animals, readers might find themselves feeling similarly. As was the case with The Shelters of Stone (2002), there�s not a lot of urgency in this final volume, but the millions of readers who have been with Ayla from the start will want to once again lose themselves in the rich prehistoric world Auel conjures and see how this internationally beloved series concludes. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Auel�s novels have been record-breaking mega-best-sellers, with 45 million copies worldwide, ensuring that readers will clamor for the series finale. --Kristine Huntley
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Top Customer Reviews
There are about 400 pages of retelling what happened in the other five books, go ahead and insult my intelligence and assume I've forgotten what happened in all five of your books, like if I had, I would have bought the sixth book?
300 pages of oooh a cave, look a picture of a bear, lion, horse, bison, mammoth.
50 pages of Travel, travel, travel oh look a woman with horses and a wolf, travel travel travel, oh look a woman with horses and a wolf.
10 pages of my name is, my affiliation is, I'm married to, good to know you. Every time you meet someone, ad nauseam.
And finally about 20 pages of real plot. You could have told the entire book in 100 pages, almost zero plot and most of that boring and tired. Someone jealous of Ayla tries to get even for her being better than them and they get their comeuppance. Oh dear Jondalar is with another woman he must not love me anymore, blah blah blah! Sound familiar?
And Cattails!!!! There must be eight places in the book where she details all the parts of the cattail you can use. Ok, tell me once, I got it especially since you've told me at least once in every other book you wrote.
Now if she had wanted to write a travel guide of all the ancient caves with picture in Europe, she should have done that instead of bore the crap out of her readers with it. And I paid $12.99 for this, on Kindle? Not even a tree version? I need my head examined.
'This must be the longest I have ever waited for the next book in a series. I bought the first one in 1984 when I left home for university, got absolutely hooked and avidly read them as they appeared, including The Plains of Passage, which was the last one in 1990. If I have to wait another twelve years for the next book in the series, I'll be nearly fifty and will have spent thirty years on this story.
So was it worth it and will I be anticipating the next book as eagerly? I'm not so sure. Oh, I'll read it - I have grown very fond of the heroine, but I found this book somewhat of a letdown. It mostly feels like scene-setting for the next book, and half the content seems to be retelling of the four books before (something that was already starting to irritate in The Plains of Passage, together with the too-dry lectures on flora, fauna and geography). Yes, the new people Ayla lives with need to know about her life, but it could have been done better. Jean Auel should really trust her readers more to know what has already happened - after all, we have had twelve years to read the story again and again. Compared to the scope of the plot in the earlier books, this is a bit feeble.
But I still want to know how it all ends. Meet you all at my fiftieth birthday party.'
Well, I only had to wait nine years and not twelve, but I wish the book had never come. This reads like bad fanfic, without the inadvertently funny bits. Everything I criticized about the last book she did again, only more so. It almost felt like she couldn't remember her own books and had to put in the constant repetition of background facts to remind herself, badly pasting together filing cards from her worldbuilding box. The dialogue is stilted, the people are indistinguishable cardboard cut-outs, and nothing happens. In a bad way.
I mean, I was about two pages in when I first said 'This is terrible'. There is nothing left of the promise of the first four books. Nothing.
I'm off to cry in a corner, and then I'll go pretend I never read the last two.
I want my money back, and the last 21 years.
Edited to add: I put this book on the charity table of my local supermarket, with a home-made warning label saying 'This book sucks - read at own risk'.
Time to visit Jean Auel's paleolithic society which is populated by earnest liberal arts graduates embarking on an experiment in communal living and alternative religion.
But, all is not well in our Paleolithic New Age Craft Collective.
Into the Zelandonii's world of tasteful multi-room caveman condos & herbal birth control, a little rain must fall.
What would you say if I told you it's not Ayla's Destiny to inrtoduce the domestication of animals, or forge an alliance between the Clan and the Others such that both can evolve into the People of Today?
No, it is Ayla's Destiny to invent chauvinism and patriarchy, and single-handedly turn men from annoyingly sensitive saps into ultraviolent macho d-bags.
Because, as Ms. Auel seems to think, those are the only kind of men there are, or apparently, ever were.
Indeed, all The Great Ayla need do is to inform the boys that they are 50% responsible for the creation of new life, and suddenly, they devolve into beasts.
Sensitive, politically correct men and the stately and wise matriarchs who spawned them? No war, no conflict of any kind, not even the odd fistfight or family squabble? Quiet, clean children and well-behaved, responsible teenagers? Sure, as long as the women are in charge & the men are just body-temperature dildos.
Hapless fools in charge of providing for their mates and their children, no matter if most of the kids seem to resemble that guy from the fa'lodge at the Summer Meeting who's hung like a mammoth and still lives off his mother.
But, let the boys know that they're necessary for reproduction, too, and they do a complete 360 and turn into a horde of ultraviolent MCP's.
If there is a silver lining in this heaping helping of hooey, it is that the revelation seems to make Ayla and Jondalar act more like, well, I don't know, PEOPLE.
Take Jondalar. As soon as he finds out that when Tab A goes into Slot B, it may result in Baby C, he does what pretty much any man would do when he sees the first of a bunch of drunks waiting their turn at bat taking advantage of his wife, the mother of his child, the woman he loves, whom he is bound by the equivalent of law to support.
He goes apes**t, pulls the miscreant off of his wife, and beats the crap out of the SOB.
Screaming the best bit of dialogue in the entire book. I won't give that away. Look at the library's copy or a friend's, it happens on p.624.
Of course, Ayla was just trying to get back at him, because she caught him in the bushes getting a little lip service from his ex, who she hates. So, she decided to get back at him by doing the job on the guy he hates the most.
Hey, sure, it's petty, it's childish, and it's dumb, what they both do, but can't we humans be petty, childish and dumb, especially when love and sex are involved? It's a little late in the game, and it's really poorly written, like the rest of the book, but at least the characters in this story finally get a moment to behave like real humans, with real feelings, and real flaws.
Why? Not because anger and jealousy are, unfortunately, parts of human nature, but because they have lost their innocence and fallen away from the Mother.
Wait a minute? Is Ms. Auel suggesting that only in a childlike state of blissful ignorance is it possible for humans to be free, good, and happy? That as soon as we began our progress towards civilization, we also began our moral decline?
Is that the point of the whole Earth's Children series? Because it sounds to me more like a stale platitude tacked on at the end because the author was too lazy to write the book or the ending she's been hinting at since the 80's, and would rather go on about every cave painting in the prehistory of mankind.
So, without all of the promised revelations, the only one she was left with was that it takes two to tango.
As long as the whole "men don't know babies come from sex" thing was in the background, it was just believable, but the further to the forefront Ms. Auel pushed it, the stupider the notion becomes.
I am not sure if true Paleolithic people had come to this conclusion, I would think they had, but at least, these people Ms. Auel writes, who are far more intelligent and intellectually and medically sophisticated than a lot of modern monkeys in pants of my acquaintance, would surely have figured out something as simple as this.
The connection isn't difficult to make. Surely, thousands of years before this sophisticated civilization, men observed that after they did the dirty deed to women that the women became pregnant, and produced offspring that resembled them.
Even if they didn't domesticate animals, they had occasion to observe same among the animals.
I wouldn't make such a big deal of this, but aside from interminable pages of descriptions of cave after cave after cave, that's the whole book.
There's not even the usual plethora of amusingly bad hot sex scenes in this book, which I suppose is also realistic, because now that Jondalar and Ayla have a baby and Ayla's a working Mom with a high-powered, fast-track career, there's just no time for nooky.
Yeah. I'm pretty sure that sounds like a modern problem,. In fact all of these characters and all of their problems sound like modern problems. A fact I was willing to cheerfully ignore as long as the books were fun, hooty potboilers.
This one, however was a humorless, thudding tract. Almost 800 pages of caves and nothing, punctuated with the revelation that sex makes babies and married people with a household to keep and mouths to feed get really angry at each other for fooling around.
We know that. I think they knew that in 10,000 BC, too.
So, what you end up with is a painfully ironic situation in which one of literature's most beloved feminist heroines, the inspiration to countless women who have followed her saga through their entire lives, invents the situation that those women had been trying to get out from under.
Fellow travelers, especially the ladies who were inspired by Ayla as I was, join me in a long and very Joker-like laugh, because our only other alternative as readers is to cry, and this book isn't worth that.