Customer Reviews: The Clan of the Cave Bear: Earth's Children, Book One
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on August 21, 2001
The upcoming publication of Auel's fifth book has renewed my interest in the EarthChildren series. I'm now re-reading the books and reviewing the first, which I originally read almost 18 years ago. Am I allowed to reminisce like this? Am I out of bounds? Well, don't try to stop me. This book is still clear in my mind after nearly two decades. In the early 80's, I thumbed through it at an Albertson's checkout line, finished the first chapter, and told my parents about it. I received it a week later for my birthday...and loved every minute of the story. Jean Auel's narrative powers swept me into a past rich and alive with people, creatures, smells, and sights that are immediately familiar, yet breathtakingly foreign. That's what first caught my attention. Then I began to care about Ayla, the skinny, pale child caught in an earthquake. I followed her story with keen interest and ached over her insecurities and alienation. This is a story about people with all the feelings and emotions of you and me. And though some tried to ban the book for one particular scene of forced sex, I found it in no way glorifying the act. In fact, as a teenager, it made me more aware of a female's struggle in a male-dominated society. I'll never forget the experience--indeed, that's what it was!--of reading this novel. To go back and relive the story of Ayla all over again is a treat. I can't wait for "The Shelters of Stone." Only rarely does an author create a world so rich and believable that we could almost call it home.
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on October 7, 2010
To celebrate the upcomming release of Jean M. Auel's new Earth Series release, The Land of Painted Caves, due March 29th, 2011, we have a bargain kindle release of the first book in the series.

If you have not read this series, you are in for a treat. The novels are set 18,000 year ago at a time when the Cromagnon (us) and Neanderthal people coexist. Although certain poetic license is taken with the series, the novels are thouroughly reseached and have received a great deal of praised for their accuracy.

Ayla is a five-year old Cro-Magnon girl who is suddenly orphaned and left homeless by an earthquake that destroys her family's camp. She is found, near death, by a group of Neanderthal people, the "Clan" who are looking for a new home after their cave is destroyed in the same earthquake. A brother and sister, Iza, the medicine woman of the group, and Creb, the "Mog-ur" or shaman, adopt the young girl. The first book in the series focuses on Ayla's experience growing up amoung the Clan where she never quite fits in because of the differences in her nature. She lacks the Clan's strenght and 'memories' but is quicker to learn and to adapt to new circumstances.

If this doesn't sound like your cup of tea - at least try the sample anyway. This is a truely extraordinary series that no one should miss. Fans wait patiently for years as each new book is researched and written, and then savor it as an extraordinary treat.

Other books in the series are:
The Valley of Horses ... Ayla leaves the clan to find others like herself and meets Jondular, the love of her life
The Mammoth Hunters ... Ayla's first experience with a group of her own people
The Plains of Passage ... Ayla's and Jondular's journey back to Jondular's homeland
The Shelters of Stone ... Ayla's and Jondular's experiences when they arive back at his home.
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on August 11, 2002
This amazing book remains one of my favorites ever. This might sound 'sappy', but it's true! With beautiful writing, a well-researched setting, an engrossing plot, and lovable, if debatably human, characters, what more could one ask for in a novel? I normally read fantasy, and this exotic, nearly made-up setting sometimes qualifies at that -- but this is simply better than just about every fantasy novel out there!
Set in Ice Age Asia, this chronicles the life of a woman named Ayla. It begins with her as a young child, orphaned, who is adopted into a clan of Neandertals. Just about every novel I've read including Neandertals has them act human -- but these people are individual and distinguished from their Cro-Magnon contemporaries, without acting in the slightest like caveman savages. Jean Auel explains their larger brain mass, factoring it into the personality of the members of the 'Clan of the Cave Bear' (describing all of this race, not merely the clan Ayla is adopted into).
The young Ayla is different from the Clan people -- while not exactly 'smarter', she is far more creative. Not only that, but she's a tomboy. She defies Clan tradition by acting male -- something Clan females would never have considered. Yet the Clan members are no less special for their traditional actions. Iza, the clan medicine woman, and Creb ( a 'mog-ur', or shaman), are wonderful characters. And Ayla is amazing, throughout her life in the book.
Giving away the plot in this would be pointless. But "The Clan of the Cave Bear" -did- make me cry at the end. I don't see how anyone couldn't cry. I've cried at it every time I've read it. It's just that beautiful.
I'd definitely recommend this book to anyone. If you haven't already ordered so! It's great. The only complaint I have about this is Ayla's ingenuity. She manages to come up with so many new ideas, ones that would be revolutionary even by Cro-Magnon standards, that it didn't seem realistic. Still, this doesn't detract from the story at all.
5 stars out of 5, no question about it.
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on October 3, 2005
The story's compelling, but often Auel's writing comes off as amateurish -- the quickness that Ayla grasps certain concepts, for example, such as when she guesses at the true cause of childbirth, or that she is "ugly" compared to Clan women, happen far too abruptly, even if she is a modern human. Something more dubious, though probably more forgivable if looking at the book as a work of fiction, is her decision to give the Neanderthal characters the gift of "racial memory," an ability to regain memories of their ancestors. that is connected to the enlargement of their brains toward the back.

Secondly, Auel's writing is not advanced enough to allow her to 'show' things rather than 'tell' them. This applies both to her characters and the society she is trying to depict. Most of the time, the characters -- Ayla being the exception, probably because it is easier for us (and Auel) to understand a character who is 'human' in the same way we are -- come off as somewhat flat. Potentially interesting character traits that Auel insists that these characters have are often negated when they act or speak. For example, she tells us that Creb is feared -- or at least seen as 'cold' -- by the Clan, but we never see this. She never shows us Creb's tenderness towards Ayla, we're merely told he feels it; She never shows us that Brun doubts his own authority, she simply tells us he does; both Creb and Iza treat Ayla with less love than we're told they feel for her. In addition, the 'formal' Clan way of speaking comes off as stilted and doesn't ring true, even if it's supposed to be a translation of sign language.

This same concept applies to Auel's depiction of the Clan society itself. She consistently fails to SHOW us the way the Clan functions -- she usually is forced to make a long digression from the story to explain to us a certain part of their way of life that is necessary for understanding the next part of the story; this has the double downside of being distracting and boring, as well as giving us a big clue as to what's about to happen -- she doesn't have the skill to use foreshadowing in any long-term or meaningful way. The effect is, of course, that by the end of the novel Auel's writing is entirely predictable.

But despite all of her faults as a writer, Auel is clearly a knowledgeable person, and even her digressions don't fail to carry some interest. Her prose, if not sophisticated, is usually clear, even if it does occasionally feel like reading a text book when she wanders too far from the story, or if she renders most of her characters faceless.
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on March 23, 2000
I read this book for the first time more than 10 years ago, and I found it fascinating. I have read it again from cover to cover at least twice since then. It is very well researched, and I couldn't put it down. I wish I knew where Ms. Auel got all the information she did on the herbs and plants that she describes in her book, that the characters (Iza and Ayla) use for medicine. Some of them (like the willow bark) I know for a fact were used, and I wonder if all of the other herbs and plants really work the way she describes... Guess I'll have to check on herb and plant books for that matter! In any case, I also read the other books of the series (The Valley of Horses, The Mammoth Hunters and Plains of Passage), and I regularly check to see if Ms. Auel has published another book of this series. Hurry Ms. Auel, there are a lot of us waiting to hear what happened to Ayla.
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on September 28, 2009
This book would be great if it wasn't for the writing. Seriously, the editing process should have pared it down, eradicated some over-used figures of speech, and challenged some of the obvious sci-fi creations that advance the plot.

The premise of modern humans and neanderthals having contact and more has been explored quite a bit. Auel does bring an interesting flavor with the story of Ayla, a presumed cro magnon who is mercifully adopted by a clan of presumed neanderthals and the culture shock this brings to all parties.

Auel's clan is very human in many regards. Sophisticated language, medicine, tools and hunting help them to survive. A flawed, but coherent mythology and religious structure guides their morals and their strictures. They display many of the human emotions and failings as any modern community, and certainly crave more than simply the basic needs of survival. The politics and personal dynamics that form the plot have a timeless and universal character.

Unfortunately, several aspects of the writing style, and several major "suspension of disbelief" plot devices made it difficult to finish. A few that come to mind:

1. The author has clearly done extensive research (or can fake it) on medicinal plants in this era. Unfortunately, it's just not that interesting to most readers given the amount of detail poured into the story. Chapters are interrupted for long discourses on yet another set of medicines and their preparations, when in fact the details add nothing to the story.

2. Too many ancillary characters with similar names to keep straight. The tribe boasts an Ika, Iba, Eba, Uba, Ovra - whatever. Many of the characters only appear every hundred pages or so and you just can't recall why they matter. Strangely, the basic motives and traits of the main characters are often repeated, which you of course should know, but these side characters just drift in and out with their similar names.

3. The pre-verbal communication is all done with hand gestures, yet they convey sophisticated sentence structures and long diatribes and grand ceremonial rites for hundreds of viewers. This just isn't believable. If anything, a species that has to rely on their hands as hunters, gatherers, and craftspeople would not be able to use those hands for such communication.

4. Repetitive figures of speech. "Ayla wasn't the only one who..." comes to mind (a way overused transition into a new paragraph - when you start to notice it and count them, that's bad).

5. There is a completely unnecessary sci-fi aspect to it, dealing with the mental abilities of the clan and in one case, the ability to see into the future (a cringe-worthy montage). Everything else in the story was at least plausible without this addition.

One more warning that is a bit of a spoiler, and also not the fault of the author. The book jacket cover on the paperback edition I read states that the clan eventually comes to worship the main character. This is false. "Accept and respect" would be accurate, but there is never any worship.

I'm disappointed by this fact - I would love to know what happens to the characters as the saga continues, but I won't subject myself to that writing style again.
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on November 21, 2001
Earth Children Series:
What more can I say that 244 Amazon reviewers has not. This book is full of adventure and it let readers see through the past, on how early humans (cro-mags) live their life. Their cultures, beliefs, custom and tradition. Ayla, being born to Others was found almost dying by one of the Clan of the Cave Bears. She was eventually adopted by them and have to adjust to her new family, new environment. The challenge was overwhelming and I ache for the little girl. But then again, this is also where I admire her courage, strength and determination. The affection between Ayla, Creb and Iza was a heart warming read. I admit some parts of this book falls a bit verbose, other parts I find a bit far fetch or a bit hard to believe considering the time plot. I am not an Anthropologist so I may be wrong but Ayla's intelligence of finding and realizing things on her own sometimes left me doubtful especially for a girl her age. However, it's really not too deep to distract me. In fact, it piqued my interest all the more and made me read on. Overall, this book is imaginative, educational, entertaining and worth your time.
This is definitely a different reading material compare to my usual historical romance novels but I am thankful my mother in law suggested this book to me. It's the first of Ms. Auel's Earth Children Series. I am now in the middle of the second book of the series and so far, it is as interesting as this one. My mother in law waited 10 years for the fifth installment of this series and I'm glad I don't have to wait that long. It'll be out next year, 2002.
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on April 7, 2000
I've read Clan of the Cave Bear so many times, that I've had to buy another copy. Along with her other books in the series, this is a must for everyone's personal collection. Jean M Auel weaves so much historical data in between the story lines,in fact, it is an integral part of all that makes up Ayla's life. The strength of the heroine combined with her human limitations makes Ayla come alive for the reader. I am driven to find out as much about Ayla as I can in reading this book and in the three succeeding novels in the series that continue with Ayla's saga. The books are grand, epic tales of a young woman's growing up and maturing in prehistoric times. Losing her family in an earthquake, 5 year old Ayla sets out in search of other humans in a sparsely populated prehistoric Europe. A clan of Neanderthals stumble across an unconscious, lion mauled Ayla. The Medicine Woman of the group,Iza, cares for Ayla. The clan is initially wary of Ayla, the first of "the others" that they have encountered, but she is gradually accepted by them. She has much to overcome, and Clan of the Cave Bear concludes in line with Ayla's difficulites through out the entire book. The story is picked up in "Valley of the Horses". I recommend that you read the entire series, and then wait, like the rest of us Auel-o-philes for the next book in this series. It's been over ten years since the last book (Plains of Passage)and I think I can speak for everyone when I say: Please Publish SOON!
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on January 5, 2000
I read this book, and the rest of the series, when I was in high school. I think every woman who reads these books wants to model herself after Ayla. Brave, honest, beautiful, sincere - I mean, what more could you ask for? Her totem is a cave lion, for pete's sake! Jean M. Auel has an extraordinary gift for making her characters so real and alive - Ayla was probably my best friend when I was 16. She made me take a hard look at who I was and how I wanted the world to see me, and she gave me courage to overcome some of the teenage social situations I thought I would just never make it through. Funny how a work of fiction can make such an impact on your life. I love this entire series, and The Clan of the Cave Bear started it all. (just a note: I wouldn't recommend these books to anyone under 16 - some strong sexual content)
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on December 29, 2006
When young Ayla's parents are killed in an earthquake, the 5-year-old is left to wander the pre-historic earth on her own. She roams for days, looking for other people, following a stream into the vast wilderness. Overcome by hunger and thirst, Ayla is attacked by a lion. Narrowly escaping death, the small girl manages to squeeze herself into a crevice to hide from the lion. The lion's paw can fit into the crevice and the lion scratches Ayla, leaving severe gashes. Thirst finally drives her from her hiding place and she passes out near a stream.

At the same time, the Clan of the Cave Bear, the neolithic peoples we think of as "cavemen" happen upon the dying child. The Clan's medicine woman, Iza, takes pity on the child, even though she is of the Others, and begs the Clan leader to let her nurse the child back to health. Grudgingly, Iza is allowed to care for the child and Ayla is eventually accepted as part of the Clan. What appears as a great stroke of luck for the child, being saved by the Clan, also becomes one of the hardest things Ayla will ever have to do. She must learn to speak the Clan's language, a language not of words, but of gestures and sounds. She has to learn Clan customs and taboos and how to behave as a proper Clan child. If all of that weren't enough, Ayla also has to deal with the mockery and scorn of the Clan leader's son, Broud. Broud hates Ayla and does everything within his power to torment the little girl.

As Ayla grows older, Iza trains Ayla in the ways of the medicine woman to ensure Ayla a place in the Clan when Iza and her brother Creb, Ayla's adopted parents, die. In secret, Ayla begins learning to care for herself. She finds an old sling that was discarded by one of the Clansmen. Ayla teaches herself how to use the sling, which is strictly forbidden by Clan rules.

As Ayla continues to grow older, she struggles with her own place in the Clan, a group to which she doesn't belong. She tests the boundaries and borders of the group dynamic and in some cases, she pays a terrible price for learning those lessons.

Friends have been recommending this novel to me for years, but I was somewhat reluctant to pick it up. I had seen the horrible Darryl Hannah movie that was made in the late '80s, and though I shouldn't have, I judged the book by the movie. Recently, though, it was recommended to me once again and I decided I would give it a whirl. I am completely glad that I did. The Clan of the Cave Bear was totally and completely spellbinding. I didn't want to put the book down. Jean M. Auel, the author, is quite talented. She brings the characters and the settings to life in such a vivid manner that the reader forgets their modern surroundings while reading and is transported to the ancient world of the Clan. Her moving and beautiful portrayal of the Clan and Ayla are simply magnificent.

I highly recommend this book to everyone.
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