THE LAND OF PAINTED CAVES
Auel‘s Children of the Earth series holds a special place in my heart. My very first review, published in RT #3 in 1981, was for the Clan of the Cave Bear, the book that began this incredible series. I remember being completely captivated by Auel’s storytelling. Who else could bring the prehistoric era from museum dioramas to life so beautifully, and without any dialogue? Her heroine became a symbol of empowerment to women around the globe. It has been nearly 30 years since that review and eight years since the previous volume in the series. For those who have followed Ayla, The Land of Painted Caves is a must-read.
Ayla and her mate Jondalar travel from mid-Asia to what is now France, where people who dwell in painted caves come together to work as a unit. Though marvelously detailed description (an Auel trademark), readers see, feel, smell and taste every event in Ayla’s life. She teaches others to make spears and hunt, drawing on her knowledge of animals, and endures the trials and tribulations of keeping a relationship together and raising her daughter. It is difficult for her to fit into this new world where others are suspicious of her pet wolf and her “modern thinking.” Ayla finds her place when she begins exploring the tribe’s spirituality and relationship with Mother Earth. As she begins training to be a leader and healer, a strain in placed on her marriage; she is a woman who wants a career and family; a difficult task even millions of years ago. This is how Auel makes Ayla’s world accessible; by making her characters’ emotions, trials and triumphs just like those we face. This is much of the magic of the series, but the rest comes from Auel’s remarkable ability to tell an engrossing story and draw readers right into every aspect of her characters’ lives. Though this is to be the last of the series there are enough loose threads for Auel to continue; readers can only hope she will do so. (CROWN, Apr., 768 pp., $30.00)