When her parents are killed by an earthquake, five-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 of Neanderthal who call themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear. This clan, left homeless by the same disaster, has 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.
I had never heard of the Earth Children series before reading this book, which is the first in the series of 6. This book is set 30,000+ years in the past and with that the author would usually have a license to rewrite history as most readers would have very little knowledge base on life at that time. However Jean Auel has painstakingly researched everything she could when writing this book and any inaccuracies within the text are mainly due to findings after the book was published. It is amazing how much detail is in the book regarding the life of the Clan and how all forms of life lived on earth at that time. There is so many descriptions of anything you may need to understand, yet it never feels like a history lesson. The story is full of heart and suspense and even though the book has many pages, you can’t help but eat them all up.
What I liked about this book: The character of Ayla. Your heart goes out to her at every turn but she is not a damsel in distress. She has a strong survival instinct but she isn’t headstrong. She wants to be independent but lives every day trying to conform. She is such a complex character in the way that she thinks and feels, but on the most natural level possible you understand her as she is more modern thinking than any of the characters around her. Something else I love about this book is the storyline itself. It is a story that has been told for generations in a way; the trials Ayla goes through could be taken from her prehistoric time and placed in the 18th or 19th century and still feel true as it is essentially a story of a repressed woman. The storyline seems quite modern and it’s easy to empathise and sympathise with the heroine of the book. I think it is that which elevates this book from being an interesting fictional history book to an exceptional read.
What I didn’t like about this book: There are a lot of characters and they all have short names that sound similar. For example: Ona, Oga and Ovra. These are 3 different female characters and I still can’t quite remember how they are related to each other. All the female characters had names beginning with a vowel and the male characters a consonant, which helps to simplify it a bit. It also helps that you are drip fed the characters as the chapters progress, rather than being inundated from the very beginning. But it was still confusing at times and I eventually gave up trying to remember who everyone is.
I loved this book and I would happily read it again. It had drama and suspense and heart and joy in equal measures and not once became boring or hard to read. It was nothing like anything I’d ever read before and I look forward to reading the sequels and following Ayla’s journey after this book.