Thursday, May 6, 2010

Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

I have been on a "re-reading old favorites" kick lately, so when a patron asked about the Earth's Children series a few weeks ago, it sparked a memory of how much I liked these stories. I read the first three installments back in the '80's when they first came out and loved them.  I know number four is on my bookshelf, but I can't remember now why I have never gotten around to reading it or number five - but then, half the time I can't remember what I named my children.  When all five books recently became available in audio form from Kansas Audiobooks, Music and More - the fantastic free site for downloading audiobooks, ebooks and videos, sponsored by the Kansas State Library - I decided to start from the beginning and work my way through all five this time.  It was just as good as I remembered.
Here is the saga of a people who call themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear; how they lived; the animals they hunted; the great totems they revered. But mostly it is the story of Ayla, the girl they found and raised, who was not like them. To the Clan, her fair looks make her different--ugly. And she has odd ways: she laughs, she cries, she has the ability to speak. But even more, she struggles to be true to herself and, with her advanced intelligence, is curious about the world around her.
Clan of the Cave Bear begins with Ayla's separation from her family during an earthquake and her rescue by the Clan. The rest is the story of her continual struggle to fit into a society that lives, communicates and even thinks differently from what she has known and from her instincts.

On the surface, a book about "cavemen" doesn't trip my trigger, but the extensive research and/or imagination that went into creating this world make it one of those books that immerse you.  I have commented before that I love stories involving Native American lore and this is along the same lines.  The details of the Clan's daily existence - how they hunted, found shelter, cooked, made clothing - fascinate me.  Those same details could easily become like reading a textbook, but Ms. Auel's writing weaves them into the plot without slowing the action.  The Clan's language is mostly gestures and hand movements, mixed with a few guttural sounds, which could be difficult both to write and to read. Again, Ms. Auel's skill as a writer manages to convey the emotions and thoughts behind the gestures while never letting you forget that this is not a verbal conversation.

I am anxiously awaiting volume two - The Valley of the Horses - through the audiobooks site. I am currently third on the waiting list so may have to revert to the printed version for this one. 

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