The Land of Painted Caves: A Novel (Earth's Children)

by Jean M. Auel

Hardcover, 2011




Crown (2011), Edition: 1, 768 pages


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.

Media reviews

Among modern epic spinners, Auel has few peers. And readers need not worry: There are enough loose ends to feed a half-dozen more books. We’ll hope to see more, magic mushrooms or no.

User reviews

LibraryThing member mountie9
The Not so Good Stuff

* 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)

Favorite Quotes/Passages

"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

1 Dewey's

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.
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LibraryThing member jayne_charles
It felt as though this series had run its course by the time I got to book 5, and I picked up this final instalment with some trepidation. Would it be possible to breathe new life into this stuttering project?

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.
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LibraryThing member rondoctor
My wife started (and stopped) reading this book. She said it was terrible. I finally started reading it to judge for myself. I quit after about 350 pages (and I usually don't quit a book, even if it is bad). My wife's judgement was too kind. Reading it is pure drudgery. This most recent book in Jean Auel's series lacks any kind of plot. It is excessively repetitive, seems to lack editing. My impression is that Auel and her editors took all of her research, both previously used and not used, and dumped it into a "book" ... 848 pages of the same material repeated over and over again. I would classify this book as an exploitation book, a ripoff of the consumer. That's too bad, because her earlier books were excellent.… (more)
LibraryThing member zeborah
I read the first three in this series before I'd started high school (skipping the boring parts like the long descriptions of scenery and sex) so despite being terribly unimpressed with book 5 (the stunning thing was that before it came out I'd read a bad speculative fanfiction, and then book 5 turned out to cover all the same plot points) I retain fond memories.

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.
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LibraryThing member magooles
I have been a fan of this series for the past eleven years. The first four books were great. When the fifth book took so long to come out, I was a bit disappointed with it but still had faith that the sixth (and final) book would deliver. I could not have been more wrong. I feel as if I have wasted both my time and my money. Was it really necessary to have the "Mother's Song" in it's entirety four or five times? As aggravating as that was, I was thankful when I could skip several pages and be closer to the end. I kept waiting for something somewhat exciting to happen, but NOTHING ever did. Every conflict was neatly tied up within a couple of pages and we were back to describing herbs and singing songs. Unfortunately, this book has ruined the entire series for me. Ms. Auel has done no justice to her previous success.… (more)
LibraryThing member JaneSteen
A quick investigation of Jean M. Auel tells me that she began publishing her Earth's Children series in 1980, and I must have been introduced to the series in about 1985 whenThe Mammoth Hunters was published. So my impression that I've been reading this series since the dawn of time has some foundation.

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.
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LibraryThing member arbar
Sad to say, but this was a big dissapointment after waiting all these years. Sorry I read it... left a bad taste in my mouth and ruined the memory of a great series for me.
LibraryThing member eljabo
Two weeks of my life I will never get back. I swear - what is up with all the 700 page books with absolutely zero plot? I was so excited about this book - I read Clan of the Cave Bear in high school and re-read the first three books in the series multiple times. The fourth book wasn't as good, but I still enjoyed it. I didn't really like the fifth. However, since I've given Laurell Hamilton 500 million chances, I thought I'd show Jean Auel the same courtesy with her sixth and final book in the Earth's Children series.

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.
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LibraryThing member revslick
After the last book in the series I promised I wouldn't read another one. I'm kicking myself for breaking my promise. I thought with the length of time between the last one and this one Jean might have had time to do something unique. I was wrong!! Ayla has achieved super woman status as she's progressed from outcast, hunter, leader, adventurer, medicine woman, sex guru, horse whisperer, inventor extraordinaire, mistress master of the junior high love triangle, and finally in this novel spiritualist mystic earth mother and overdose survivor. Characters are weak and story is forced blah. The most exciting thing reading this one was about halfway through I fell asleep and dreamed about Ayla getting mauled by a cave bear!… (more)
LibraryThing member ljhliesl
So. fucking. boring.

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.
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LibraryThing member john257hopper
This is the long awaited sixth and final book in the Earth's Children series. It has been generally poorly received by fans and I can see why: it repeats the flaw of the fifth book The Shelters of Stone in containing a lot of repetition, both within the book and from earlier books in the series. The endless descriptions of painted caves in the first two thirds of the book will tire many readers, though I find prehistoric art a fascinating discovery and all these descriptions are based on real cave art, much of which shows a very high level of skill and beauty. There is frequent reiteration of the same points of Zelandonii customs and practices and of the behaviour of Wolf and the horses. The book is also somewhat disappointing in that it doesn't resolve plot threads from earlier books, in particular the fate of Durc, Ayla's half Clan son. That said, it does bring the welcome return of some old friends from The Mammoth Hunters (book 3, and my personal second favourite of the series), who add some colour to the somewhat bland and faceless nature of most of the individuals of the Zelandonii tribe. It also brings the return of the main theme of the latter part of that book, jealousy and misunderstanding between Ayla and Jondalar, though this does have the benefit of showing them to be less than the paragons of heroic virtue that they are throughout most of the books.

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.
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LibraryThing member ratcreature
This was really tedious with all the repetitions both within and from previous books. I don't mind detail of world building and everyday life; I like that in this series overall, but nobody needs to be told events that happened previously again and again. An editor should have cut a lot of this.
LibraryThing member lauriebrown54
Back in 1980, ‘The Clan of the Cave Bear’ was published; it spawned a genre of prehistoric novels, none of which ever grabbed me the way that book did. Jean Auel not only put an incredible amount of research into her books, but her heroine, Alya, was one of the most engaging protagonists I’ve ever ‘met’. I followed the series as this Cro-Magnon superwoman survived being orphaned at age five and then being raised by a band of Neanderthals, learned to hunt, tamed animals, learned herbal healing, and so much more. Auel showed, in an entertaining way, how various things could have been learned and invented. I read that book at a time when I was going through a back to the land phase, and Ayla’s adventures resonated with me.

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.
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LibraryThing member Berly
A flat-out disappointment. The author spent way too much time refreshing the reader's memory; there wasn't any of the sexual tension of the early books; I am tired of hearing about how food was made and tents constructed and if Ayla gets formally introduced with ALL of her titles one more time...! It is a shame, because I know Auel spent a lot of time researching both time and place for this book, but it was boring. It is impossible to describe the beauty of cave paintings adequately with mere words, and she visited a lot of them in this book! Jondalar felt like a weak character, Ayla wasn't endearing, the dramas were thin. I can't believe I waded through 757 pages! I would give it a one star, but I did finish it (because I had to find out the end after all the time I invested in the series!), so it gets a two star.… (more)
LibraryThing member kaffles
The good news is that you don't need to re-read any of the previous books before you tackle The Land of the Painted Caves - Auel doesn't refer back to anything without giving a bit of a summary of what happened before. Unfortunately it feels like she's doing the same thing chapter to chapter as well and, despite mentions of the countless stories and songs of the Zelandonii, she only included one song: the Mother's song from previous books can't ever be just mentioned, it can only be recited in it's entirety interspersed with character reactions! (She puts it in 5 or 6 times - sometimes there's a bit of it, it stops and you think you're safe, then it starts up again a few pages later!)

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.) :)
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LibraryThing member DocWalt10
I have given up reading this last of her Earth's Children series. I got to Page 389/757. It was a struggle from the beginning but I kept hoping it would get more interesting. I loved the first three books. Ms Auel spends too much time describing the surroundings, which seem repetitive and more for word count and page count, then what adds to the story.… (more)
LibraryThing member Dmtcer
I was not disappointed with this book. The details of how people must have lived 10,000 are so fascinating, and the books are so fabulously researched. They tend to be a little repetitious, but because of their length and descriptions I am not sure this can be avoided. The cave explorations were many, and highly detailed, yet similar. The most valuable detail that I got is that no one really knows how or why the caves were painted, or what the meanings were, even during Ayla's time they were said to be done by Ancients. I read many reviews about this book, and I think they were mixed. Personally, I liked it a great deal. It is mostly Ayla's story and adventures into becoming Zelandoni; Jondalar and her daughter are not in the forefront, but are a big part of the book. Some of the reviews said that Ayla ignores her daughter and I did not find this to be true at all. I am very much glad to know more of Ayla' story. I think it does not end here; in fact, the ending was very much thought provoking.… (more)
LibraryThing member waxlight
I waited years for this series to finally finish up. I was incredibly disappointed, as the book seemed to address none of the topics that Auel had foreshadowed in her earlier novels. I'm left with no feeling of closure to what had been one of my favorite series.
LibraryThing member Draak
I won this book from Read it Forward and I was so excited. I have read the Earth Children series since it first came out and had such high hopes for the final book. Before I started reading book 6 I re-read all 5 (which were excellent)so it would be fresh in my mind. I was sadly disappointed. Part one they are at a summer meeting and everyone comments on Ayla's foreign accent and her control over animals. And then there are the flashbacks when she was little and lost her family and the clan. Then the tours of the caves with drawings. Part two....they are at a summer meeting and everyone comments on Ayla's foreign accent and her control over animals. And then there are the flashbacks when she was little and lost her family and the clan. Then the tours of the caves with drawings. Part three.......they are at a summer meeting and everyone comments on Ayla's foreign accent and her control over animals. And then there are the flashbacks when she was little and lost her family and the clan. No tour of cave but Ayla goes into one while under a trance and has an epiphany and becomes a zelandoni. In previous books she had dreams where here unborn son came face to face with her clan son Durc. I had high hopes that this would come to pass and she would be reunited with Durc. But no this didn't happen. Once again her and Jondalar's love was tested in what seemed like a flashback to book three The Mammoth Hunters. Then there is the constant repeating of everyones title and station in the family. Jondalar and Ayla have a little girl and her name is Jonayla. She has a very small roll in this book and you would wonder why she is even in there in the first place. And it seems like Jondalar is a bit player also. This books centers mainly on Ayla becoming a zelandoni and the painting in the caves. There are a few bright spots but not enough to say that this book was even enjoyable. Was it worth the wait......well i could have waited longer for a better book.… (more)
LibraryThing member TrgLlyLibrarian
There is an immense amount of detail in each chapter of this story. Occasionally the detail makes dialogue cumbersome or feels a little repetitive. However, I find it very comforting--the circumstances in each situation were fully described and considered, and the motives of the characters were made abundantly clear. Even the dangerous scenes were tempered with analysis. I like context and careful thought, so I found this book to be a relaxing experience.… (more)
LibraryThing member HeartlessOne42
This has to be one of the worst books I've made myself finish. I had such high hopes, as I've read all of the other books in this series, but this book was so repetitive and boring, it felt like someone had ties Auel to a chair and tortured the book out of her. As much as I liked the other books, this one was enough of a disappointment to recommend against reading the series, or at least stopping at The Shelters of Stone.… (more)
LibraryThing member bcrowl399
I loved all of the books in this series. So well written and so well researched. There was a lot for me to discover her, even in "middle age". I know it's overused, but this series is truly classic.
LibraryThing member mccark
I waded slowly, painfully through this - in the hope that there would be something, anything worthwhile. Got a little bit excited about 80% in, because it seemed like maybe something was going to actually happen - but turned out it was just a rehash of Mammoths. Complete waste of time, and one star given only because I never have to go through this again.… (more)
LibraryThing member atreic
Well, this book is better than the Shelters of Stone. That is slightly damning with faint praise though. More Stuff happens, but a lot of the Stuff feels badly paced and out of character. I don't think Ayla would ignore her daughter and husband for a year to map out the phases of the moon - I think she'd rebel against the Zelandonii. And I don't think Ayla would go quietly into a religion where she felt the Mother caused her to make such a sacrifice than the one she makes during her calling. Not the Ayla who would rather die that lose Durc. And I don't think Jondelar would fall for the two-dimensionally cruel and selfish Marona.

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.
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LibraryThing member fyrefly98
Summary: Ayla's training as a Zelandoni, One Who Serves the Mother, begins in earnest. A major part of that training is the Donier Tour, on which Ayla must visit the painted caves which are the most sacred sites of the Great Mother. Ayla is interested in the knowledge that the zelandonia have to impart, but the training often keeps her away from Jondalar, and their young daughter, Jonayla, for too long at a time. Can she balance the demands of her calling and the Gifts of the Mother with the realities of family life? Or will the pressures of her training swallow any hope of having a normal life?

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.
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0517580519 / 9780517580516
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