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The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth's Children, Book One)

The Clan of the Cave Bear - Jean M. Auel My #7 Favorite read of 2013

A Unique and Entrancing 5 Stars

When I am rating a book, I am internally comparing that book to other similar books in the genre and asking myself if it is on par with the best I have read. For me, when it comes to rating what I deem to be Historical Fiction, 5 stars are a rarity. It is my favorite genre and there is always a masterpiece to which it can be compared. That said, The Clan of the Cave Bear has no peers. For me, this story explores a time that I have never explored or read and I have basis for comparison. In general, as historical fiction, it meets all my requirements. There is a sense of realism, the sense the author has researched the time period, a sense that the characters belong in the time period and ability of the author to help of live history instead of reciting it.

As far as historical fiction in concerned, The Clan of the Cave Bear is likely far more Fiction than historical. The setting is prehistoric times and what we know or claim to know of these early days is no more than our best guesses. Regardless, Jean Auel clearly researched the available material and provide and interesting look into prehistoric life.

Plot summary

After an earthquake kills the family of Ayla, a "Cro-Magnon" girl, she is adopted into the clan of Neanderthals. The child is different from her adoptive clan. She does not have the shared memories and the instinctual ways of the life as the Neanderthals. She is an inquisitive, logical tall and blond while her new family is survival oriented, ingrained, short and squat. She struggles to be considered part of a clan in which she should not be accepted. The story watches this outsider come of age and explores how her logical and creative mind allows her to integrate herself with a different people

The Good

The book contains a minimal amount of dialogue. The Clan vocalized little more than names and communication is a series of the complicated hand signals. While this may seems like a recipe for disaster, the author integrates it seamlessly. The minimal dialogue feels natural and comfortable. The story does an amazing job of integrating theories of early man. The ideas of the shared and instinctual memory was fascinating as it gave the Neanderthals both a human and animalistic feel. While both race of people considered themselves human it was interesting to see people separated by something other than race, color or language but separated by fundamental difference in biological construction.

The Bad

I have very little to say that is negative. From time to time the conversation felt too modern. Given that the author was using words to express non verbal communication, I can't hold it against her. Generally, I am not at a loss when it comes to finding fault. The majority of the issues that I may have had with the book were petty and not worth mentioning.

Content Advisories

It is difficult to find commentary on the sex/violence/language content of book if you are interested. I make an effort to give you the information so you can make an informed decision before reading. *Disclaimer* I do not take note or count the occurrences of adult language as I read. I am simply giving approximations.

Scale 1 - Lowest 5 - Highest

Sex - 2.5

There is discussion of the sexual intercourse. Family lived in caves without wall or rooms and sex was not hidden and was a daily and open reality. This is discussed on several occasions. Over the course of one chapter there is discussion of a series of rapes. The descriptions are not graphic but some readers will be disturbed by the portrayal.

Language - 1

There was not use of adult language.

Violence - 3

There is violence as noted under "sex". Some readers may find the depictions of woman to be disturbing and several character engaging in physical assaults on women. There is one serious assault and several instance of single punches or hits. Again, the depictions are not graphic. There is some minor gore in hunting scene and one results in the death or a clan member. There is an instance of cannibalism that some readers will find disturbing.