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The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

The Clan of the Cave Bear (1980)

by Jean M. Auel

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Earth's Children (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
9,988232285 (3.95)240
  1. 41
    Picture Maker: A Novel by Penina Keen Spinka (GCPLreader)
  2. 10
    Across the Face of the World by Russell Kirkpatrick (wali5905)
  3. 00
    Raven : roman over een jagerszoon in het stenen tijdperk by Jan Houdijk (Smitie)
    Smitie: Dutch book about a young boy from a hunter/gatherer tribe travels to the east and discovers a whole new culture of the first farmers. A very nice tale from the historic period after the ice ages.
  4. 00
    The Kin by Peter Dickinson (mene)
    mene: I thought "The Kin" was a bit similar to Jean M. Auel's "Earth's Children" series (book 1 being "The Clan of the Cave Bear"), though Dickinson's book is really targeted at children and it's also written from the childrens' viewpoints. The similarities are that both books take place in the prehistory (although CotCB a LOT later, around 35.000 years ago), both have clans of people who speak and clans who don't speak (and the speaking-people debating whether the non-speaking clans are really people or just people-like animals), and in both books the characters travel through the land. Both authors also describe the landscape very well, though in a different way. The differences are the target audience and consequently the events. In Dickinson's book, it's not really a problem if someone from the speaking-clan gets a child with someone from a non-speaking-clan, but this is a big problem in Auel's books.… (more)
  5. 11
    Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd (mcenroeucsb)

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English (208)  Spanish (9)  Dutch (9)  French (4)  Catalan (2)  German (1)  All (233)
Showing 1-5 of 208 (next | show all)
I can't believe I took so long to discover and read this book. I vaaaguely remember buying it almost twenty years ago when I was in college and halfheartedly trying it, but it did not grab my interest at that time.

I recently picked up a battered copy from the '80s at a thrift store near me for $.19 when they had a sale, along with several vintage romances and scifi. When I posted the haul to my Facebook, the consensus was that I start with Clan of the Cave Bear. I listened to the hivemind, and I'm glad I did! This isn't necessarily a traditional review, so much as a running commentary of all the thoughts I had while reading it. It does include spoilers, so fair warning if you are interested enough to read on.


The writing style kind of felt like reading a textbook that was engaging and interesting instead of dry and boring, which sounds weird to say, but for me it totally worked and felt natural.

The book wastes no time in getting to the point. By the second page, Ayla is already an orphan. I was like O_o.

I know the author did a lot of research, and that shows in the loving detail she incorporates. Not gonna lie... At times, it was a little tedious where descriptions of wildlife and the changing seasons were concerned, but I just skipped those paragraphs if I got tired of it. I did enjoy immensely the long descriptions of herbalism and medicines, as I found that very relevant to my own interests. Though she did tons of research, I am sure it is not entirely historically accurate, but I don't know a historical fiction novel that is. To me, a book like this needs a little creative license, particularly since I view our understanding of early humans as an inaccurate and interpretive science, anyway. Whatever stretches there might have been were worked in pretty seamlessly with no glaring oddities (at least for my limited knowledge of this topic).

Based on the subject matter, I knew there would be rape in this book and I was a little worried since usually I avoid media that involves it. However, I must say that it was nothing like when we are exposed to rape today in the media, particularly in movies or TV. The scenes involving or discussing it were violent, but not as bad as I had feared. I think because, for once, it was rape that seemed to make sense, given the context in which they were living and the circumstances that led up to it. That sounds horrible, like I'm condoning it, but that is not what I mean. I just mean that the textbook, matter-of-fact writing style of this book coupled with the fact that the rapes did not seem gratuitous turned the descriptions about them almost into neutral pieces of data that were simply being documented, rather than unbearable acts of violation that kept happening over and over for no reason other than to be violent and dramatic. I am probably not explaining myself very well here, but oh well. I wanted to address it, particularly since it may be a trigger for some people.

Reading this book was exciting for me because it is the first time in recent memory that I really had no idea what was going to happen and I really felt that ANYthing could happen to anyone. It is hard to explain. It was both predictable and suspenseful at the same time somehow. I knew vaguely what would happen (I knew Iza would die in this book or that Broud would end up raping Ayla and getting her pregnant, for a couple of examples, because all that was predictable), but in the larger scheme of things this whole world was so unfamiliar to me that I just had no idea where it was going to go and what adventures they would have.

I think some people dislike Ayla, claiming that she is a Mary Sue, but I did not think that about her at all. I did not find Ayla annoying, too smart for her own good, or unrealistically intelligent. For one thing, she might have been intellectually smart (because she was biologically made that way, which is hardly her fault!), but socially... she struggled a lot and wasn't too smart in that area. She often risked herself and her loved ones through her inability to adapt to the clan ways because her intelligence prevented her from functioning within them (she questioned things too often and was not a sheep!) and the concept of relinquishing who she was just to "fit in" was not in her nature and so had to be learned for survival reasons through tough lessons. As a result, she made big, cringe-worthy mistakes and she wasn't perfect, all of which made her more relatable and, if I might go so far as to say, human. ;) For another thing, although she was favored at times and often clan law did not seem to apply to her, I felt the allowances they made for her made sense in the context that Brun kept coming back to: what was best for the clan, not because they were necessarily favoring her. Yes, Ayla made some big leaps:
- Constantly saving children from disaster through her eccentricities and earning the respect of the clan (I almost said "ingratiating herself with the clan," but I don't feel that's accurate because it was her nature that drove her to do those things and not a desire to please the clan)
- Figuring out that babies come from intercourse and are not acts of immaculate conception (like the rest of the clan thought; according to the clan, sex was for men to "relieve" themselves whenever they wanted as a dominance thing, whether the woman wanted it or not, though sometimes they enjoyed and encouraged it)
- Catching on to ideas (like counting) quickly and surpassing the adults (even Creb) in many aspects like that
- Teaching herself to hunt after watching a clansmen give a small child one lesson
- Learning all of the herbalism knowledge despite not having the programmed memories for it
- Basically inventing the bra

But, to me, it was only natural for her to do all that, given her increased capacity to think things through and the basic concept of necessity being the mother of invention. I have no problem with how smart Ayla is because 1) she does have flaws and 2) that is the point of the whole book. She is a link to the future of the human race; it would make no sense for her to be stupid and make no big leaps. What Ayla is doing is no different than the leaps that the great thinkers of our time have made; no one calls Albert Einstein or Steven Hawking a Gary Stu, for example. I could see how Ayla could have been an extremely unlikable, unrelatable protagonist, but I felt the author did a great job of skirting that possibility altogether through the sensible way that everything fits together and culminates. I can think of three VERY annoying protagonists off the top of my head right now who are much better examples of Mary Sue types.

I was kind of surprised about how spiritual it was. I am not sure if that was invented for the purposes of Ayla's story, or if there is evidence that early humans really believed in spirits and totems and if they were the center of their life like they were in this book. Like I said, I have limited knowledge in this area.

I kept being thrown off guard by how young the characters were. Iza was considered old, but she was only 26 when she died (12 years younger than me!). Creb, Iza's oldest brother and the spiritual leader of their clan, was maybe 30 when he died and considered seriously ancient. Brun (the middle child and the only one still alive) is I'm going to guess 28 or so, but is no longer the clan leader because he's "too old" for the job. Even trying to allow for the fact that they were younger than expected while I was reading, I kept thinking Creb was like late 40s/early 50s, Brun was in his early 40s, and that Iza was maybe mid- to late-30s. Nope. They were at least 10 years younger even than that. Children were mating and having babies at eight-years-old and basically acting like adults who nowadays would be in their late 20s/early 30s. Their entire lives were lived in approximately 20 years and, if you made it past that, you were considered old. Really hard concept to grasp and understand, but I found it fascinating.

My biggest criticism is that there were two major bits of endless waffling: one surrounding Ayla deciding whether to be a hunter and the other surrounding Brun deciding whether Broud should be a leader, especially since it was patently obvious that even though both of those things were really bad ideas, they had to happen so the story could go where it needed to go.

After finishing the first book, there was no closure and it was obviously left as a (really good) cliffhanger. But, rather than feeling annoyed, I am left with wanting to know what happens to Ayla next, as well as Durc (her son), Broud (I keep hoping he will be killed off in a satisfying way), Brun (who I really grew to like a lot), and the clan itself. So, I plan to read the next two in the series, but I'll likely stop after that, given what I've read in reviews about the final three books. ( )
  trillianiris | Jul 12, 2018 |
4.5 stars ( )
  mitabird | Jun 10, 2018 |
Updated after finishing: There is probably a reason why I haven't read this series, but I am persistent. My rating is more 2.5 than 3...there is a lot of repetition which really takes away from the story. You can tell that fiction writing - especially when characters are conversing with each other - is not Jean Auel's strength.

A few of her ideas were prescient (Neanderthals successfully reproducing with Early Modern Humans, as has since been proven by DNA sequencing). Others are sadly outdated, especially her physical descriptions of Neanderthals. Neanderthal DNA has shown that some H. Neanderthalensis had red hair and fair complexions.

What I also found odd was the inclusion of certain medical facts that are clearly modern day, portrayed as the thoughts from someone that lived 30,000 years ago. For example: "The plentiful supply of drinking water kept dehydration from making its dangerous contribution to hypothermia, the lowering of body temperature that brought death from exposure, but she was getting weak." The stream-of-consciousness writing was, at times, excruciating.

Despite all of this, I will likely read the second book in the series. So there has to be something going for it. I just can't pinpoint exactly what that "something" is. ( )
  abergsman | Mar 20, 2018 |
I read this for the first time when I was 12 and I have read it several times since then. I look forward to each book the author adds to this story. ( )
  SMBrick | Feb 25, 2018 |
I read this a zillion years ago, when it first published.
No reviews really, from books SO Long Ago (but if you read ONE from this series, this is the one), but I bumped into this review and had to add the link here:
https://cassandraparkin.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/adventures-in-trash-the-land-of-painted-caves-by-jean-auel/ ( )
  kmajort | Feb 9, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 208 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (28 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jean M. Auelprimary authorall editionscalculated
Burr, SandraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hakala, ErkkiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hazenberg, AnneliesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mörling, MikaelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Taylor, GeoffCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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for RAY
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The naked child ran out of the hide-covered lean-to toward the rocky beach at the bend in the small river.
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Book description
From the back of the book:Here is a novel of awesome beauty and power. A moving saga about people, relationships and boundaries of love. Through Jean Auel’s magnificent storytelling, we are taken back to the dawn of mankind nd swept up in the wonderful world of a very special heroine, Ayla. Her enthralling story is one we can all share. A natural disaster had left young Ayla alone, wandering, fending for herself in an unfamiliar land. One day she is discovered by the Clan of the Cave Bear, men and woman far different from her own people. The tall blond, blue eyes Ayla is a mysterious stranger to the Clan and at first they mistrust her and cast her out. But as she grows to know them and learn the ways of the clan, she is welcomes. And as she leads them in the struggles for survival, the clan comes to worship Ayla. For in her blood flows the future of humanity.

Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553381679, Paperback)

When her parents are killed by an earthquake, 5-year-old Ayla wanders through the forest completely alone. Cold, hungry, and badly injured by a cave lion, the little girl is as good as gone until she is discovered by a group who call themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear. This clan, left homeless by the same disaster, have little interest in the helpless girl who comes from the tribe they refer to as the "Others." Only their medicine woman sees in Ayla a fellow human, worthy of care. She painstakingly nurses her back to health--a decision that will forever alter the physical and emotional structure of the clan. Although this story takes place roughly 35,000 years ago, its cast of characters could easily slide into any modern tale. The members of the Neanderthal clan, ruled by traditions and taboos, find themselves challenged by this outsider, who represents the physically modern Cro-Magnons. And as Ayla begins to grow and mature, her natural tendencies emerge, putting her in the middle of a brutal and dangerous power struggle.

Although Jean Auel obviously takes certain liberties with the actions and motivations of all our ancestors, her extensive research into the Ice Age does shine through--especially in the detailed knowledge of plants and natural remedies used by the medicine woman and passed down to Ayla. Mostly, though, this first in the series of four is a wonderful story of survival. Ayla's personal evolution is a compelling and relevant tale. --Sara Nickerson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:08 -0400)

(see all 8 descriptions)

Twenty years ago The Clan of the Cave Bear became a blockbuster, launching a bestselling saga. Beginning April 30, 2002, its success will reach all - new heights, with Crown's hardcover publication of the fifth volume in the story, The Shelters of Stone. The new hardcover, paired with Bantam's spring mass market repackaging and repromotion effort, will ensure that a whole new generation is introduced to this incredible epic. Summer delivers trade paperback editions of this contemporary classic, available for the first time ever. That means that all readers - and all booksellers - can get the novels in their format of choice. With momentum for these epics at its highest in over a decade, readers will yearn to discover the magic of Ayla's saga, or to refresh their memory of it. And one woman's odyssey, beginning at the dawn of time, will once again capture the imagination of millions. This novel of awesome beauty and power is a moving saga about people, relationships, and the boundaries of love. Through Jean M. Auel's magnificent storytelling we are taken back to the dawn of modern humans, and with a girl named Ayla we are swept up in the harsh and beautiful Ice Age world they shared with the ones who called themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear. A natural disaster leaves the young girl wandering alone in an unfamiliar and dangerous land until she is found by a woman of the Clan, people very different from her own kind. To them, blond, blue-eyed Ayla looks peculiar and ugly - she is one of the Others, those who have moved into their ancient homeland; but Iza cannot leave the girl to die and takes her with them. Iza and Creb, the old Mog-ur, grow to love her, and as Ayla learns the ways of the Clan and Iza's way of healing, most come to accept her. But the brutal and proud youth who is destined to become their next leader sees her differences as a threat to his authority. He develops a deep and abiding hatred for the strange girl of the Others who lives in their midst, and is determined to get his revenge.… (more)

» see all 18 descriptions

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