Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Clan of the Cave Bear

my old copy, my new copy

This book was published in 1980 and I read it soon after that.  I was really drawn into this novel about prehistoric times.
Ayla, a little five-year-old Cro-Magnon child is the sole survivor of a tribe that were wiped out by an earthquake. She wandered aimlessly, naked and unable to feed herself, for several days. Having been attacked and nearly killed by a cave lion and suffering from starvation, exhaustion, and infection of her wounds, she collapsed, on the verge of death.
She is taken in by a tribe of Neanderthal.  How fascinating!

I was so engrossed in this book, I continued to read other books in the series as they were published.  And, I also began to record the series on tape.  My sister-in-law had ALS and was paralyzed.  She lived at a distance so I thought this would be a way to help to entertain her.  I found out later that the tapes were put on to calm her to settle for sleep at night.  And, looking back, I can see that it could have put her to sleep.  The description is exhaustive but beautiful!
"The land was unbelievably rich, and man only an insignificant fraction of the multifarious life that lived and died in that cold, ancient Eden.  Born too raw, without superior natural endowments for it-save one, his oversize brain- he was the weakest of the hunters.  But for all his apparent vulnerability, lacking fang or claw or swift leg or leaping strength, the two-legged hunter had gained the repect of his four-legged competitors."

The role of women is described in this passage: "In the beginning Ayla just followed Iza around and watched while they skinned animals, cured hides, stretched thongs cut in one spiral piece from a single hide, wove baskets, mats, or nets, gouged bowls our of logs, gathered wild foods, prepared meals, preserved meats and plant food for winter, and responded to the wishes of any man who called upon them to perform a service."

I find this book mesmerizing!  I am reading it for the third time- aloud this time as we take advantage of the good weather to take day trips.
I would love to read through the whole series- six books!  But they are long, descriptive books and take hours to complete.  We may complete one book this summer.  I know that the second book in the series has less plot and more description, but I would love to get to the later books that I have not read. The last book was just published in 2011- after a nine year wait.  So it seems like a good idea to re-read the series, in order to fully appreciate the last book.

1980  The Clan of the Cave Bear
1982  The Valley of Horses
1985  The Mammoth Hunter
1990  The Plains of Passage
2002  The Shelters of Stone
2011  The Land of Painted Caves

This series was a major undertaking!  The author began research in 1977. Thirty-four years of work on this series!   It was no surprise to learn that the author belongs to MENSA.

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