July 3, 2013

Book: The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M Auel

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , , — krishnafromtoronto @ 8:12 pm

imagesThis is an intriguing book. This is also the first book in a series that Jean wrote, and it has its own dedicated following among book readers. This review is just about the first book in the series.

The premise is unique. In the early human times, there is a girl, barely four years old, who goes for a swim in the stream. Her family is part of a group which lives in a cave. While she is having a swim, the earth shakes and there is a terrible earthquake and her entire group is lost – assumed perished. Not even having enough skills to fetch food or conscious of the need for water, this girl, who is blond, almost perishes but as she is lying unconscious close to death, is found by a Clan of Neandarthals. The medicine woman of the clan, Iza, takes her with her and brings her up as her own. So she grows up with them, initially not even understanding their language or their customs but slowly getting used to their way of life. The issues do not stop with her starting to understand others, they just begin!

It is fascinating to see the differences between the two races and how they consider the blond and presumably very beautiful girl, whom they name Ayla, as ugly because she does not have the Clan features of sunken eyes, bow legs and very strong but inflexible hands. Nor does she have a beautiful sloping head!

Iza lives with her brother, Creb, who has been crippled at birth but is the most powerful magician or the Mog-Ur. The entire Clan fears him because, primarily, Mog-Urs know the magic and are in touch with evil spirits, which, if angered, can produce calamities like the earthquake where the Clan also lost its cave and many of its able men. On top of that Creb is The Mog-Ur, the supreme of the supreme and is renowned as the most powerful magician in all Clans. He takes to Ayla as she fearlessly touches his face when she was a baby.

It turns out that before Iza’s mate died, he made Iza pregnant and she gives birth to another girl called Uba, who worships Ayla. Ayla’s totem chosen is the Cave Lion, which shocks the clan because it is supposed to be a male totem. Also her ways of laughing (which the clan does not do) weeping with tears (which the clan cannot) and speaking with words, confuse and anger the clan. The clan leader Brun is fair and gives Ayla the chance to be part of the clan but Broud, who is the leader in waiting and is Brun’s son, hates her.

When Ayla, against the dictates of the Clan not only touches but also handles a sling, and uses it to save a life, the Clan is scandalized and is cursed with “death” for a month. She survives the ostracism of the Clan and returns to join it.

The story is also populated by Goov, the tool maker, Una, the mate of Broud, the leader in waiting, Voor, the second in command to be, and many others.

They go to the gathering of the Clans which is the biggest ceremony. The story ends on an interesting note, not expected of such stories.

The research is thin or at least, not used much in the story, which reads like a pulp fiction but there is enough material there for it to be believable. The characters are credible, and the travails of Ayla and the status of women in the Clan and the customs and fashions are told interestingly like in a popular fiction.

 You get swept along with the story to  be left with a glow of affection for some main characters at the end of the book. I would say it deserves a 6/10

— Krishna



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