1980s Historical Fiction

The Clan of the Cave Bear – Jean Auel

A few weeks ago I asked the Weekly Geeks to ask me some questions about The Clan of the Cave Bear, the response was amazing, so it has taken me a while to compile all the questions and come up with some answers. Here is everything you wanted to know about The Clan of the Cave Bear!

Gautami Tripathy What is it about and why do you like it so much?

The Clan of the Cave Bear is about a girl called Ayla. She is just five-years-old when she is orphaned by an earthquake and finds herself alone in the world. She is adopted by the Clan of the Cave Bear, a Neanderthal clan, who are very different from her physically modern Cro-Magnons family. The book sees her learning how to interact and bond with a culture completely alien to her, and gives us a great insight into what life was like for the Neanderthal people.

raidergirl3 Were you impressed by the history, or do you think Auel made Ayla a little too intelligent, inventing most everything that could be imagined?

I was very impressed with the research that went into the book. Historical detail was present throughout the book, giving you a real sense of the sights and sounds of their world. I have often read reviews from people who are annoyed by Ayla’s intelligence. So far she hasn’t invented an exceptional number of things, but I have heard that it starts to get too much in the third book, so I’ll let you know once I’ve finished that one!

Claire What makes this one of your favourite books?

The best thing about this book is the unique plot. It is so different from any other book I’ve read. The world of our ancestors is vividly described, and the problems they faced are very different from the ones we do today. Their survival was in the balance on a daily basis and so they clung to traditions to try to ward off evil and remain healthy.

I loved Ayla’s strong personality and the way she dealt with the problems thrown at her. If you are looking for a book with a strong female role model – this is it!

Gnoe After I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy in one flow when I had finished my studies I sort of had enough of fantasy. Anything you can say to change my mind?

I wouldn’t class The Clan of the Cave Bear as fantasy – it is much closer to historical fiction. I appreciate that we can never really know what happened so long ago, but this book gives a very convincing estimate. I have to admit that I’m not a big fan of Lord of the Rings, and this may be due to the fact that I didn’t really connect with any of the characters – they just didn’t seem realistic to me. All the characters in The Clan of the Cave Bear were believable, fully developed and interesting. Other than length there isn’t much similarity between the two books.

Gavin I read the first two years ago. Should I read them again?

I read The Clan of the Cave Bear about two years ago too! I’m not planning to re-read it anytime soon, but I probably will in 10 – 20 years time. Whether to re-read or not is a personal descision, but I think you should try book three soon. I’m planning to!

 Becky Do you have a favorite character (or two)?

Ayla is my favourite character. she is so strong and intelligent. I love the way she questions everything. I’d like to think I’d be like her if I was put in the same situations.

Becky How soon into the books did you know that you were going to love them? Is there anything off-putting about these books that you think might be difficult for readers?

I have to admit that I didn’t like them straight away. The book begins with long descriptions of the flora and fauna present in the world and while it is clearly meticulously researched it didn’t interest me that much. I think other people would find this off-putting too, but I urge them to keep going as by the time you are a few pages in you will discover the magic of the book.

Becky Who would you recommend them to?

I would recommend them to everyone. I think they will have a special appeal to teenagers and women of all ages, but I do think that men would enjoy the series too. Literary fiction fans may find them a bit light, but anyone who loves a plot driven novel should enjoy them.

J.T. Oldfield When I was in college I remember a prof saying that one of the characters was based on a real skeleton–a man with a limp? Anyone know what I’m talking about?

No idea! Sorry! Can anyone else help?

Jacqueline C. I wonder what the main character “sounds” like, since the story is set 35,000 years in the past.

The Clan of the Cave Bear do not really speak, but communicate through hand signals and tiny grunts. Ayla has the ability to speak, but doesn’t learn until she is older. When she does it sound quite modern, but that didn’t bother me.

Louise Raidergirl already mentions it in her comment above, where she calls the series “the prehistoric sex-books”. And yes, there is a lot of intercourse in the first book, and my question is, does this continue all though the series? If yes, do you think the sex is what has made this series famous?

I’ve only read the first two in the series, and yes the sex does continue into the second book. I can’t see it stopping in subsequent books, but please let me know if I’m wrong. I knew nothing about the sex when I picked it up. It was just recommended to me as a really good story. I think some of the sex is very important as it shows the difference in opinion between the two groups of people. They treat sex in very different ways and I found their differing attitudes thought-provoking. 

The Dark I remember being fascinated with all the details about how they lived, found food, and made medicine. Did you have a favorite detail like that? About how to survive in the stone age?

I loved all those details too. I like to think of myself as being quite in touch with nature and able to survive if I was left out in the wild by myself, but although I think I’d be able to find enough food and keep warm, I don’t think I’d be able to make the clothes and water carrying bags out of animal skin. I loved the detailed descriptions of how to make all these items.

pussreboots I can remember the boys in my 7th grade English class reading a tattered copy of the book and giggling. I’ve never been tempted to read it myself. What would you tell me in the review to convince me to read it?

The sex is only a minor aspect of the book. Boys giggle over all sorts of silly things, but this book has so much detail that when the sex scenes are read in the context of the book they are fascinating.

Dreamybee The Clan of the Cave Bear are very different from Ayla and her people-did you prefer hearing about one civilization more than the other?

I think I prefered learning about the Clan of the Cave Bear more. They are so different from our society so their superstitions and customs were all new to me.

If you were a bookseller (as I am), how would you pitch these books to customers?

A fascinating book about life in the Stone Age. Meticulously researched, fast paced and cleverly plotted. One of the best books ever written!

WOW! That must break the record for my longest ever post!

Did you enjoy The Clan of the Cave Bear?

Is there anything else you’d like to know about it?

16 replies on “The Clan of the Cave Bear – Jean Auel”

I havent heard of the Weekly Geeks (which is possibly criminal) and would love to have a link if you have got one. How did this Q&A session come about? Sounds really interesting and love the questions they ahve asked and the answers you have given.

Every Saturday a task is given out at The task in this particular week was to nominate a book which you have read, but not yet reviewed and then all the other weekly geeks are encouraged to ask questions about it.

The tasks vary each week, but they all aim to build a community within the blogging world. You should take a look, as it really is a great idea.

Jackie, thanks for answering my question (which was somewhat uninspired of me) and providing such a detailed and comprehensive post. I am very impressed by the amount of time and effort that is reflective in this.

I definitely intend to read the books myself but I think that from the answer you have given to Becky I may suggest them to my boyfriend to read first of all.

These books make a great talking point, so I recommend you read this book at the same time as your boyfriend. I would have loved to read this with a group of people as there is so much to discuss. This book was first published nearly 30 years ago, but has been re-printed many times. That means it is quite easy to pick up cheaply in charity shops/car boot sales. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

I don’t think she invents that much in book 2 – just a saddle for her horse and a few other bits and pieces. I think I read some where that she invents the wheel in one of the books – maybe that was a joke though?

What a wonderful response you got and what a wonderful post. I remember reading and enjoying this book when I was in high school, but sadly I remember almost nothing about it. Reading through the Q & A didn’t jog any memories at all beyond the vaguest images. I don’t even remember the sex!

I don’t think the sex is a big part of the book, but it is pretty graphic, so I guess it would stick out if you don’t approve of such things.

I think you must be about ready for a re-read! It is a great book!

I couldn’t read them all in a row – although I probably would have enjoyed doing that when I was younger.

I need a bit of variety in my reading, so will leave avout a year between each book.

What a fun post! Seeing stuf like this really makes me want to joing weekly geeks again (did it for the first few weeks and then found it was too big a commitment). I haven’t read Clan of the Cave Bear but I remember my mom reading it years ago and really liking it. sounds like a fascinating book!

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