The Clan of the Cave Bear : a novel

by Jean M. Auel

Paper Book, 1981



Call number

PS3551 .U36C57 1980


Toronto, Ont. : Bantam, 1981.


The Clan of the cave bear is the first of Jean Auel's Earth's Children series. Ayla, a tall, blond, blue-eyed girl lost her family in an earthquake. She is nurtured and protected by some members of the Clan, but there are those who would cast her out because of her strange and threatening ways. Ayla's adventures 25,000 years ago include details of the world as it might have been.

User reviews

LibraryThing member ladycato
I was born in 1980. I was raised seeing this book everywhere. I considered reading it as a teenager, and my mom warned me not to and told me about the biggest spoiler in the whole book. Online, I've seen many references to the main character Ayla as the ultimate Mary Sue. For my birthday this year, my mother-in-law gifted me with Clan of the Cave Bear because it is one of her favorite books. I kept putting off reading it, sure it would be a miserable, dragged-out experience.

To my surprise, it wasn't that bad. For those who don't know, it takes place mostly among "cave people." Ayla is a 5-year-old human. After her family dies in an earthquake, she is found by the Clan of the Cave Bear. From the beginning, she battles for acceptance. She is regarded as ugly, loud, crass, and most definitely not one of them. As she ages, she gains status with the clan as she learns the art of being a medicine woman. However, she can never forget she is not one of them - especially when her jealous rival, Broud, is intent on her destruction.

There were a few major annoyances. The author obviously did tremendous research on the era and on plants, but she did not need such extensive details. I swear at least a 1/3 to 1/2 of the book could have been cut out and no one would notice. A single walk to collect plants take up five pages of very fine print. The plot was extremely linear and predictable. Hints are too obvious. And yes, Ayla is rather Mary Sue-ish, and Broud is almost too brutish and evil. There is no real balance there. It's painful to read about a society that regards women in such a way, though it did make sense within the context of the book.

Maybe someday I'll pick up the next book, but I won't be in a rush.
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LibraryThing member fuzzi
A gripping and fascinating book, but if you're looking for a straight story, forget it. Ms. Auel goes into long descriptive passages (no pun intended!) of the sexual lives of prehistoric man. It gets boring after a while, and I found myself skipping over pages just to get past the sexual escapades of the natives.

What a waste. It could have been so much better.… (more)
LibraryThing member Justy
In the first book of the Earth Children series we meet Ayla. Ayla looses her family in an earthquake and is left alone in a indifferent world. She is rescued by people so different from her that she screams the first time she sees them.

I love that by reading this book I can escape to a completely different world. A world which make me think about and question the one I live in. Jean M Auel has done an incredible amount of research to make everything in her books as accurate as possible. This means that there are many many details about how things look and how they are done. Some how Jean M Auel manages to pour in all that detail and still keep me captivated by the story of a young girl raised by people different from herself and how she adapts and learns to live within thier rules and expecations.

I have a very dog-earred copy of this book as I have read it over and over. It is well worth picking up and reading once or twice. :-)
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LibraryThing member FrogPrincessuk
Good story. But don't bother reading any of the others in this series.

In this story the characters show weaknesses, making for well-rounded, realistic characters. Add a good plot, and a detail-rich backdrop of prehistoric life, and the result is a very enjoyable story, especially for people with an interest in this period in human history.

Remaining stories relate to the main character growing into some sort of 'Super woman' of prehistoric Europe who was so amazingly inventive that we would still be living in caves if it wasn't for her ingenuity. Cringe-worthy.
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LibraryThing member andreablythe
Set in the ancient world, The Clan of the Cave Bear tells the story of Ayla, who is orphaned after a giant earthquake and taken in by a group of cave dwellers who call themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear. Tall, blonde and blue-eyed Ayla is one of the Others and is considered ugly by the short, bow-legged, dark colored, neanderthal Clan people. Over and over again in the story, Ayla (either by accident or design) comes up against the traditions of the Clan people, who are set in their ways and unable to change.

I was kind of fascinated by the culture of the Clan, which believes in and worships animal spirits and has a strict hierarchy with men as entirely dominant over their docile and obedient women. The clearly sexist culture of the Clan seems to have been designed to show that this is the stone age and thus be "realistic," while setting it up for Ayla to be more progressive as a woman capable of being equal to men. It's an oversimplification in order to easily play on the reader's sympathies, but for all of that (and for Broud being a single minded and one-dimensional villain), there are some lovely characters in the the clan, such as Creb, the deformed shaman, and Iza, the medicine woman who takes Ayla in. Both, but especially Creb, had some wonderful complexities of character that I rather enjoyed.

Ayla her self was a little too perfect. She's good at just about everything she does, except for being docile and submissive. She screws up again and again in terms of Clan traditions, but these screw ups are positives from a modern mindset, so as readers we are clearly meant to take her side against the less evolved Clan. Also, the story got to be a bit repetitive as she screws up, is nearly rejected by the Clan, and then is fogiven..., several times.

There were a few things that made me very uncomfortable while reading this book. One, was the concept of racial memory prevalent in the book and the idea that the Clan cannot change their ways, because their culture is genetically endowed in them, a rather disturbing concept, especially in regard to continuing discussions of race. Two, is that Ayla, as blonde and blue-eyed, is set up as the future of the human race, while the dark hair and eyed Clan people are doomed to death because they can't change. I don't care that they are meant to be less evolved and that this is the stone age, the author didn't have to set Ayla off by making her so starkly blonde. It could have been just as clear that she was more evolved by showing her height and body structure as by her coloring.

Another thing that was far more minor, and something I'm note entirely sure of, is that I kept scratching my head in terms of the mixture of geography, plant life, and animal species. I mean, I associate the lynx with either Europe or North America and lions and rhinos with Africa, and I'm not entirely sure they ever mixed in natural settings. Maybe they did and I just don't know it, but I kept getting confused about how certain animals ever came in contact with each other.

So..., this book is flawed in many big ways, but it was also compelling enough to keep me reading to the end, which left me wondering what the heck happens to Ayla next and willing to pick up the next book The Valley of the Horses to find out. So, I would say, the author has done her job in terms of keeping things entertaining and keeping me reading.
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LibraryThing member DocWalt10
I have read the complete series of Earth Children when they first came out. I'm now reading the series again leading up to her new book in this series, The Land of Painted Caves, which I just acquired. Jean Auel's research is amazing. It is interesting how the Clan, which are the Neanderthal race, habit the earth for 100,000 years, living off the land and don't change it. We are introduced to the main character. A 5yr old white girl is orphaned by an earth quake. On instinct alone, she tries to survive even after being attached by a lioness while hiding in a cave. She is found by a group which call themselves the Clan who are searching for a new cave for their home, their previous one destroyed by the same earth quake. She is adopted by the Medicine Woman and her brother who is the Spiritual leader. We see how she adapts to their culture. How she is able to learn their ways. Their knowledge is memories accumulated over thousands of years and past down to each generation. She must learn by memorizing and retaining it herself. She is able to learn to become a Medicine Women. She is accepted by most of the Clan but not the leaders son. She goes against the ways of the Clan by learning to hunt which women don't do. This is a must read series.… (more)
LibraryThing member Riyale
As a real lover of history I was hoping when I read this book that I would have found something to stimulate my imagination. Unfortunately for me this book was more imagination than history. I found it hard to enjoy the reading this one. An interesting idea, in the abstract, but in fleshing it out the author delved more into the world of romantic fiction as opposed to historical fiction.… (more)
LibraryThing member dgoo
I read this enthralling series as a teen and young adult and feverishly awaited the publishing of promised installments. This is the first book/group of books that really gripped me, took to me a complete world all its own to escape from my own, that had me so drawn to the characters that I was very sad for a time because they didn't really exist. That probably says something about my experience as a teen and a lot about the author's power as a writer.… (more)
LibraryThing member ccookie
Just finished re-reading Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel which I read when it was first published over 30 years ago. I remembered it as being one of my favourites and I was not at all disappointed in the re-read. I am going to start Valley of the Horses immediately with the plan being to read them all in sequence. One and two will be re-reads but the rest will be brand new. I am caught up in Ayla's world and am really interested in what will happen to her as she continues her journey, both literally and figuratively. I find Auel's characters to be entirely real and relatable. We have all know brutes like Broud and we know that even in a horrific young life, sometimes all it take is to have one person in our life who believes in us like Iza and Creb believed in Ayla. I also enjoyed all the long passages describing the flora and fauna of her world. What a great read! Highly recommended… (more)
LibraryThing member boeflak
Light, silly, feminist troglodyte saves homo sapiens from extinction and goes on to become the mother of us all. Good summer reading. Too bad Ayla didn't patent half of her inventions.
LibraryThing member dragonasbreath
An apparently 5-yr-old girl is orphaned by an earthquake. Alone in the wilderness she is starving and infected from a lion attack.
The Neanderthals were going to let her die when the Medicine Woman asked to help her.
So begins Ayla's saga - as she struggles to fit into an alien culture where they do not verbalize, girls become women (and start bearing children) at 8, all work is cut along sexual lines - they are not capable of crossing those ones.
We follow Ayla's struggle to be a good clan woman even when it goes against everything being a Cro-Magnon means, and the beginning of a long journey to find her own people and her destiny.
Meticulously researched, you will also learn much about the landscape, animals, and plants of the era as you watch the child become a woman - and a legend.
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LibraryThing member Krista23
I really enjoyed learning as I read a really great story. Jean has done so much research while writing that she passes it to the reader without you even noticing. I loved the characters and enjoyed looking into the human past as we lived in a cave, found food, shelter, family and independence through the eyes of ayla.
LibraryThing member KerriL
I love historical fiction and this takes 'historical' to a whole new level. I've always been fascinated by our pre-historic past and I thought this was a well written, well thought out, glimpse into what their lives may have been like.
LibraryThing member MissTeacher
This thick prehistorice saga did seem daunting at first, but I'm glad I stuck with it. I think, more than the story, I was actually interested in the interpretation of prehistoric life. I enjoyed the detailed descriptions of the work involved, the pictures painted of flora and fauna, and the geographic explanations. I liked trying to figure out what landmass they lived on, and exactly where they might be. I found it fun to think about the differences between the Clan people and the Others, knowing where evolution would take us. There were some fantastical elements in the story, but the only part that truly made me cringe was when Ayla had a glimpse of modern life--skyscrapers, cars, roads and airplanes. That was completely ouut of place, but it was soon over. Definitely a feminist book, but I believe there are sequels and I wouldn't mind seeing where they take me.… (more)
LibraryThing member mrflynn
I purchased this book on a whim, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. While the narative style jumps around a bit, the subject matter and the character's growth throughout the book made it difficult to put down. While I usually do not like historical fiction, this book was so outside the bounds of that genre that I thought it verges on starting its own genre. The idea of using our collective pre-history as a subject for fiction is genius. The lives that were lived, the struggles for survival, and the great migrations that took place all serve as a great backdrop for the drama of everyday life. I would reccomend this book to all who find the subject of our pre-history interesting.… (more)
LibraryThing member mel_scott
I remember falling in love with this book (and the series) as a teenager. It's still a pretty cool look at a world most of us don't think much about. Not sure she's ever going to finish the series which is a pity...
LibraryThing member Bookmarque
By far the best of the series. Plausible and interesting, full of raw brutality and energy.
LibraryThing member mischka
Bit too much history lesson amoungst the story. Repeated facts got annoying - just wanted the story to hurry up.
LibraryThing member amandaking
This series starts out good, and in an intriguing manner with "The Clan of the Cave Bear." Auel seems to have a quite meticulous approach to the society and it's norms. But it's rather long, and starts to dwell a little bit too much on the sex in deference to plot. In such a plot driven series, lack of plot is not the best thing. I would recommend this first book in the series, but it goes downhill from here.… (more)
LibraryThing member readingraven
It gets an extra star for being the first. It was memorable, had new ideas, and got everyone talking and thinking. But . . . it was a little too convenient. Almost veering into fantasy, in my viewpoint.
LibraryThing member Wuzzlicious
This book was, in my mind, the best in the series. It was the story of a young child, Ayla, who is discovered by people who are different then her. It takes place in prehistoric times and the setting is fascinating. Auel does a fantastic job of setting a scene and has an amazing talent for writing detail.
LibraryThing member john257hopper
A wonderfully absorbing read, though the premise may seem at first sight to be difficult to sustain through one long novel, never mind 5x800 pagers (though I have read only three so far). Some very touching and thought provoking moments, especialy around Ayla's support of the Neanderthals against Cro-Magnon prejudice.
LibraryThing member justso
Jean Auel made pre history real for me, the characters, setting and events were believable.
LibraryThing member lesleydawn
One of my all time favorite books. A definite read and reread.
LibraryThing member jayceebee
Great heroine, but not great writing. At times, I felt like the author was making it up as she went along, like the story-line hadn't been adequately planned. Also, I felt like some of the author's thought processes weren't logical, but she used "clan tradition" to insert logic where she needed it.


Original publication date


Physical description

495 p.; 18 cm


0553227750 / 9780553227758


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