Ayla is training to become a Zelandoni, one of the community's spiritual leaders and healers. She becomes the acolyte to the Zelandoni for the Ninth Cave and begins the series of intensive journeys that are part of the sacred training. But as she struggles to find a balance between her calling and her duties as a new mother, her pursuits begin to take a toll on her relationship with Jondalar.
* The repetition in this book is unlike any book I have ever read before. On many occasions I actually felt like throwing the book across the room in frustration -- but I could have hurt something since the book is so feckin thick (I received the large print edition -- hmm think someone is trying to tell me something) You could have cut almost 400 pages out of the book and there still would be way to much repetition
* I never want to hear about someone describing a cave again, and at the beginning I thought that bit was interesting -- but after the 15th cave -- I'm set for life
* That mother song written in its entirety over 5 times -- hello I get it - once would have been fine. I will be singing the song in my sleep tonight & which might be a change from the Go Diego Go theme song
* Laughable dialogue and plot points. So Jondalar is the first modern daddy who likes to take care of his daughter while mommy goes to work and does drugs. Ayla suffers from a sort of post postpartum depression after losing her baby and tries to kill herself, but gets over it way too quickly -- which is an insult to anyone who has ever suffered from it -- trust me on this point. Ayla can solve every problem, she is little miss perfect and guess what she can talk to animals too.
* Ayla has an accent -- yup got that - you didn't have to mention that so many times (hmm get the repetition comment now)
* The constant long winded introductions that they go through every time they meet someone new
* Hmm, now I am repeating myself. The constant repetition of stories from the previous books
* Ok I know this is getting picky but expected Ayla to somehow connect with her first born again
* The book honestly really didn't tell us anything new or give us any closer about anything
* I liken my experience of reading this to the dismay of seeing the travesty that was The Phantom Menace after loving the original Star Wars series so much - A total disappointment
* All of a sudden the story jumps into an explanation of the ice age & it just comes across as a lecture and distracts from the story
* Enough with the bodily functions -- NO ONE wants to read shit and piss (and by the way -- it is written about on many occasions -- yup repetitive again)
"She knew that Jondalar was only appreciating; he had no desire to do more than look" (yup that is exactly how I feel about all the attractive men in this world)
What I Learned
* Some interesting THEORIES about the origin of the species
* Might have to change my thought that I will never give a book a DNF rating - and I am a stubborn one, unless there is abuse to a child or an animal, I usually can finish a book no matter how bad it is
Who should/shouldn't read
* Die hard fans who loved ALL of the books in the series might find something to like
* Fans of Painted Caves -- this is your book!
* Also highly recommended for insomnia
Notes from Joan and Ted
* The most boring and awful ending to a book I have ever read
* I understand that the Zeladoni is a fat old chick there is no need to repeat it so often
* I loved the rest of the series and have bought this book to complete my collection, but I will probably never read it again
* This was like the ramblings of an old women who is prone to repeating herself
* Feckin (yup Joan is the reason I use Feckin all the time, but she says it so much better with her wonderful Irish accent) painted caves
* Ted Hated it and kept falling asleep while reading it and he loved the series too
I received this from Random House in exchange for an honest review -- sorry guys I feel like I should apologize for my review, but had to be honest.
It wasn’t long before that question was answered in the negative. Okay, in a book called “The Land of Painted Caves” it would be reasonable to expect a cave or two to feature. But crikey, the first four hundred pages were little more than a tour of caves, each one more tedious than the next. Around about page 300 Ayla remarks that she has rather had enough of looking at caves for now, and I have to admire her staying power – I had reached that conclusion at least 100 pages earlier.
What has happened to this series which began so strongly? (Clan of the Cave Bear is one of my fave books of all time). Now the characters are flat, wooden and predictable, and drama has been replaced with the mundane. Elaborate and yawnworthy plans are made for two groups to go on an expedition and meet up partway. Except one group doesn’t turn up on time. Jondalar can’t get a signal on his Blackberry, or something like that, and they have to go back and look for them. What a drag. And you just know from the way things have been going for the last couple of thousand pages, if someone perishes in an earthquake or some random hunting disaster it won’t be anyone you’ve previously heard of, so it won’t register much anyway.
My genuine advice to anyone hesitating about reading this book is to start at page 522. Unless you’re keen to hear about Ice Age attitudes to capital punishment you will have missed nothing. And contrary to all expectation, in the very last quarter of the book something actually happens. In the context of such undiluted tedium it was like being hit by a swinging brick. I had genuine concerns over a certain person acting out of character (and given there is only one facet to his character, to act out of it is pretty bad) but let’s park that, because when you’re dying of thirst and someone offers you a beer you just drink it. What a relief to finally have a reason to read on. Until, of course, the author decided that what the plot needed was another cave.
There is far too much repetition, not just of the flipping Mother’s Song (which if I never read again it will be too soon), but of plotlines from previous books, as though it is hoped people will read this as a stand alone novel. Anyone doing so is going to be massively disappointed. The best place to start is with the first book – maybe followed by the next three – but then stop.
I'm almost certain that the early books in the series contained actual plots; unfortunately, to the extent that The Land of Painted Caves does they're entirely recycled and only start in the last third or so of the book. A few misguided souls hate Ayla out of jealousy and in due course receive their comeuppance. She and Jondalar recycle their epic misunderstanding of doom from The Mammoth Hunters and are reconciled after she recycles her nearly-dying-of-spirit-walking efforts from ibid. The cover copy and an anvil in chapter one suggest that the book's meant to be about conflict between her motherhood and her calling to be zelandoni, but not only does this never come to a head, it doesn't even come to proper tension.
What the wordage does contain is a travelogue of the eponymous painted caves (fair enough) spaced out with Ayla meeting every single person in a dozen caves of the Zelandonii. Every single meeting is recounted, and every single time we get the recitation of her names and ties and the explanation for why she has a wolf and horses with her and the astonishment of the people meeting her at how said animals listen to her. I'm not joking. Over and over and over they say the exact same things. Forget fanfiction: this book could have been written with a random Auel generator.
The Land of Painted Caves is the sixth and, apparently, the final book in the series. For those of you who don't know, these novels are set in the Ice Age and centered around Ayla, who is orphaned at an early age, lives with Neanderthals who call themselves the Clan, is banished, lives on her own and tames various animals, meets hunka hunka burnin' love Jondalar and returns with him (and some horses and a wolf) to his own people, the Zelandonii.
Having worked through the last two books, I was already beginning to tire of this particular epic, but I'm loyal and wanted to see how the whole thing ended.
I am SO disappointed.
For one thing, have I just grown out of this kind of novel, or did these books always read like an animated textbook? It is pretty interesting to learn about how Ice Age people may have lived, but the author is way too evident in this book, stopping the action every so often to give us a little lecture so that you end up feeling the characters are those models in a museum diorama, spears brandished and hair all over the place.
Then there's the repetition. Seriously. EVERY time someone new meets Ayla (and there is a cast of thousands, most of whose names confusingly begin with J) they HAVE to be awed by the tame horses, scared of the wolf and aware of Ayla's strange accent. And I was starting to yell every time the Song Of The Great Earth Mother was sung.
Oh Yes, The Capitals. They Abound. The novel is larded with titles, the one that really got to me being She Who Is First Among Those Who Serve The Great Earth Mother, and its many variations. This 700+ page chunkster is ponderous enough without slowing things down by putting Capital Letters on almost every line.
And the whole Zelandonii thing is like some vast New Age commune who take their religion with deadly seriousness. I could never have imagined that sex rites, orgies and drug-taking could seem like so little fun or be surrounded by so many rules and rituals. I'm sure it's quite accurate from a research viewpoint, but hoo boy, I think I'd rather take today's stresses and idiocies over this depiction of a natural idyll.
And I could go on. And I'm really not trying to be unkind to Auel, who has obviously taken huge pains to research and write these books. As I said, I've read my way through the series and, taken as a whole, find it memorable. It's been hugely successful and Auel has legions of fans (don't shoot! Please!)
But what really disappointed me was the ending. No spoilers, but there were so many interesting directions Auel's epic plotlines could have gone, and yet I feel that the whole thing sort of fizzled out, as though she, too, had had quite enough of the Zelandonii (who remind me, bizarrely, of the Federation in Star Trek. Perhaps this is the effect of trying to imagine a simpler world.)
I guess I was looking for a bang (no pun intended, and while we're on that subject the honeymoon is definitely over) at the end - it came, in a sense, as a discovery/observation that would profoundly shake the Zelandonii's worldview, but even that could have been more fully explored in the plot. There's an interesting parallel to the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden there, and I'd like to have seen it taken farther. If this had been my book, I'd have cut out all the middle bit about the caves (endless descriptions of cave paintings and lots of repetition of That Song) and finished the series off with a bit more brio rather than repeating a prior plotline.
As a writer, I found myself wondering - would I take on a series that would take me 30 years to finish? I love to read series, but I think it's better for all concerned if the books are written over a shorter period, even if that means the research has to be shallower. The problem of the research eventually dominating the story is all too evident here.
I should have just read the Goodreads reviews for a plot summary. Actually, I should have just read the title of the book -- The Land of Painted Caves.
In this doorstop, Ayla and Ms. Zelandonii visit a lot of caves and examine in great detail (some detail lasting for five pages) all the drawings in the caves. That's pretty much it. Oh and Ayla "discovers" that men play a role in childbearing. That was it. For 700 pages. Caves and sperm...excuse me...Essence.
Honestly, if I knew Ayla in real life, I'd probably want to smack her. She's flawlessly beautiful and fluent in every language and gifted with animals and a fabulous mother/daughter in law and an accomplished healer and a fantastic spiritual leader and a human lie detector test and wonderful in bed. Give me at least one tiny flaw -- bad breath, a disorganized cave, a catty moment amongst friends. No one is that perfect.
In the last quarter it picked up a bit. After I griped about measles (a disease that humans developed from close association with cattle) someone suggested I turn my brain off a little and just enjoy. That's easier to do when shit's happening. But Auel's turgid writing -- "There was something there" and "rather inviolable" -- trips up the limited narrative flow I might have been coasting on.
I've got 7% left. I've read good books that leave me hanging that I haven't waited 20 years for and, to repeat, were good. Let's see what she can wrap up in 50 pages.
I did get one laugh of the so-awful-it's-fabulous sort that I'd been hoping for, when someone busted out ALL IN CAPS about NO MORE WIRE HANGERS or some such.
Overall, while I understand the reasons for many readers' disappointment, I still largely enjoyed reading this. Its slow moving, spiritual feel is a refreshing contrast to many other books I read and I found myself looking forward to immersing myself in this very different and largely peaceful world on the train home after a hard day in the office in central London. Being slow isn't necessarily a flaw - many pre 20th century literary classics are slow by modern standards. If one accepts this fundamental point, there is still a lot to be got out of this work, though it will never be as memorable as the first three books in the series.
I waited eagerly for each new volume. Sadly, the quality dropped as the series went on; the books started to drag. Still, I could not give up on the series, even though I didn’t get to reading ‘Land of the Painted Caves’ until it had been out for two years. I kind of wish I hadn’t read it at all.
There is little in the way of plot; Ayla and the First (the spiritual leader of the caves and her mentor) make a journey to visit all the caves with paintings in the area. There are some personal issues for Ayla, of course, but they seem contrived. And the book is extremely repetitious; every time Ayla is introduced (which, given the travel theme, is very, very often) her entire list of names and affiliations is given as if we have never read them before; as is the fact that she has an accent. We read about every person’s reaction to the horses and to Wolf. While it’s valid that people would have never seen tame animals before, we don’t need to know about every single reaction. Nor about every time Ayla brews up tea. It’s a huge book and I feel would have benefited from some serious editing.
It is almost like Auel felt she needed to finish the series but didn’t really have it in her. It’s a sad ending for the Earth’s Children series.
Auel's descriptions are better than her conversations and interpersonal relations, the book is too long for the amount of plot, and many of the character's just need a good slapping to wake up to themselves. However, don't let me stop you reading it! I had to finish the series after reading it for more than 20 years.
If you've read Shelters of Stone, you should be going into this book with your eyes open anyway. (If you read Shelters and saw nothing wrong with it, then this one is fine too.) :)
Also, there are lots of things that felt like they were going somewhere and then didn't. Ayla meets a lot of people, but it's very sequential - there are little half-stories (eg 'Ayla meets a woman with too many teeth', or 'Ayla meets a woman who was badly burned') and then we never meet these people again. Jondalar's mother is very ill at the summer meeting, but then that isn't really mentioned. And we never get any further with one of the main themes - the Cave meeting the Clan and realising they probably evicted them from their land.
In fact, most of the characters are very shallow. Ayla's daughter only gets about 4 sentences in 800 pages of book, and I feel I know nothing about her other than she's pretty.
And there's some very poor continuity in places. I'm sure I read that they were taking on the rhinocerous-wounded guy as an assistant, and _then_ read Ayla and Jondalar having the conversation about whether they should do that!
I'm glad I read it - I've journeyed with Ayla for far too long to be able to resist seeing what happens next - but I'm mostly disappointed.
Review: Confession time: I don't actually read Jean Auel's books. I suspect that if I actually did sit down and try to read every word, the endless descriptions and repetitions would soon frustrate me to the point of pitching the book across the room, and I don't want to break any windows. Instead, I skim, looking for dialogue, proper names, action verbs, and any passage that catches my eye as more interesting than its surroundings.
And, I have to say, I don't think I missed much. This book could be shortened by at least 10% just by cutting out every time that a familiar character gives their formal ties as part of an introduction. I won't even get into the number of times that Auel presents the Mother's song in full (these are at least indented and so easy to skip while skimming), the number of people who remark on Ayla's accent, the number of cups of tea that are made (in elaborate detail as to the cooking process), the details about how to hunt, butcher, and cook large Ice Age mammals, etc.
There's also the issue of the painted caves. The first 500-odd pages are primarily involved with Zelandoni taking Ayla on a tour of *all* of France's painted caves. I have a standing interest in cave art, but even so, I found this book's level of description to be a bit excessive. I read much of this section with the Wikipedia page for the relevant cave open on my laptop, so I could see the paintings that Auel was going to great lengths to describe. If you believe the cliché, Auel uses her thousand words per picture (and then some); I think I would have been better served just reading a dedicated photographic guide to the caves.
Surprisingly, in the last 200 pages or so, this book actually does develop somewhat of a plot. (Especially shocking after The Shelters of Stone made it through 800 pages with no such occurrence.) Granted, it's a plot that's recycled more-or-less intact from The Mammoth Hunters, but after spending the previous 500 pages looking at paintings, it's at least interesting by comparison. Also surprising in this final installment, compared to previous books, is the relative lack of on-screen sex scenes (only two that I noticed), as well as the fact that Ayla refrains from inventing any more of the major advances in human civilization. 3 out of 5 stars.
Recommendation: If you slogged through The Shelters of Stone, then The Land of Painted Caves should breeze by... although it's definitely worth going to find some actual pictures of the caves rather than relying entirely on Auel's lengthy descriptions.