Book: The Clan of The Cave Bear
Author: Jean M. Auel
Who should read this book: People that like a book with a strong female, lovers of historical fiction.
Ayla is one Bad Ass Bitch.
This is the first book in a series that was first published in the 80’s. It is telling that I plan to read the rest of the series and have already secured all of the books from my friend’s mom. I really enjoyed this book. The first 10 pages had me hooked instantly. This 5-year-old girl survives an earthquake, loses her entire tribe, survives being attacked by a lion and is finally found laying in the mud by a woman from a different clan. All that in the first 10 pages. Jean M. Auel has a beautiful writing style, you can take her words and fully imagine the scene, the people and the emotions. Ayla works her way into the hearts of the new clan despite their differences and grows into a bad ass woman. If you enjoy historical fiction, you’ll like this book. My rating is 9/10.
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SPOILERS AHEAD!!!! Also PG 13, this book is sexy.
Ayla is called one of The Others by the Cave Bear people. She is tall, blond, blue-eyed and her head has a different shape. The dark, brown-eyed, cro magnons think she is ugly. Ayla is a homo sapiens and the Cave Bear Clan are neanderthals as far as I can tell. Iza is the clan’s medicine woman and has a natural need to help the sick and injured, so when she sees Ayla dying in the dirt she asks permission from Brun, the leader, to care for her. He reluctantly agrees. Ayla recovers and becomes part of the clan. They quickly come to see her as a good luck charm. Iza is pregnant but her mate died in the earthquake. So she lives at her brother Creb’s hearth, caring for him. Creb is the clan’s magician, he often leads the males in a ritual where they are definitely eating something similar to magic mushrooms and tripping together. He takes to Ayla so quickly having never mated in his life. He likes having a kid around and he teaches her to speak with her hands like the rest of the clan.
Ayla has many habits the clan people find strange but they get used to them. She makes many noises beyond grunting. Her people talked with their mouths whereas the clan people talk with their hands and the occasional grunt. She laughs and this sound scares them at first until they figure out it’s a happy sound. When she is sad, water leaks from her eyes and they are confused by this too. Ayla learns the ways of the clan quickly and tries to stop laughing and crying, but she soon discovers going out on her own gives her the freedom to be herself.
The roles of men and women in the clan are very strict. Men are superior to women, they are the hunters, the strong protectors, they can mate with any woman they choose and they can relieve themselves (cum) in any woman they want, not just their mate. The women are literally taught that if a man gives you the signal, you drop what you are doing and assume the position for him to relieve himself. Sex has no emotion in the clan, men are not tender and woman feel no pleasure. They also don’t understand that when men do that, that’s how a baby is made. They believe the spirits just decide a woman should be pregnant and it happens. There are plenty of rules for Ayla to learn about being a submissive woman and one she is told very early on is that a woman is not allowed to touch weapons or tools that make weapons. She chooses to ignore this one.
Ayla frequently clashes with Broud, the son of the leader. He is a few years older and is used to getting a lot of attention, but Ayla shows up and repeatedly steals his thunder. He grows to hate her and constantly calls on her to do his bidding, which as a woman she must do, and if she doesn’t move fast enough he beats her. She in turn hates him for the way he treats her and purposefully moves slower to piss him off, but she has to deal with getting beaten for it. Iza and Creb implore her to keep her head down and do what he says but she struggles to be so submissive.
One day she is out collecting herbs for Iza’s medicines and she sees the men practicing hunting with a sling. An older man is teaching a younger boy how to do it. Ayla watches from behind a tree as Broud decides he can teach better (so arrogant) and proceeds to miss brilliantly and then get royally pissed at the old man. He has a freaking temper tantrum and his father, Brun the leader, scolds him in front of all the men about losing his temper. If he knew Ayla had also seen he would have exploded. Anyway, Ayla waits for the men to leave and then goes and picks up the abandoned sling. She tries it. She teaches herself to hunt! Over the next few years she practices whenever she can and becomes extremely good at it and even learns new tricks to surpass the men. But it’s all very bad so she keeps this secret and rarely kills anything.
When Ayla becomes a woman at age 11, the only requirement being that she starts menstruating, all hell breaks loose. Broud has lost the fun in beating her because she’s learned to avoid it by moving quickly and respectfully when he calls, giving him no reason to lose his temper. He still hates her, but now he has his own mate and a hearth and a son. However, when Ayla saves his son from a hyena things change. She shows her skill with the sling to the whole clan by saving the baby. They flip out because “woman no touch weapons.” She is given a death curse by the leader and sent away, but they say if she can survive one moon she can come back. Well Ayla is bad ass, as I’ve stated, so of course she survives. She finds a little cave, she hunts for food, and she survives a month in the cold by herself. When she comes back Iza and Creb are super happy and she is named The Woman Who Hunts and is allowed to hunt small game with the sling. Ayla thinks things will turn around now that she can be more herself. But she is wrong.
Broud is pissed that Ayla came back and is getting more attention than ever. He wants to hurt her but he doesn’t know how. Then one day he finds her alone in the woods and he gives her the fucking signal. Of course she has no desire to let him dominate her in that way, so she tries to run away. The way her eyes pop open in terror and when she tries to run just excite Broud more and he beats and rapes her. He has gained back his dominance of her and he is very pleased with himself. He begins to call on her 2-3 times a day to relieve himself (rape her). She hates it and she becomes very depressed. She stops caring about anything including hygiene, but her sorrow and displeasure only spur Broud on. Eventually she becomes pregnant and that changes her attitude. She has a miracle inside her and it gives her strength. Iza teaches her to take care of herself and the baby and she starts to feel better. The raping stops bothering her and becomes just another chore she has to do, which deflates Broud, literally, and he leaves her alone again.
Ayla has the baby and everyone freaks out because they think it is deformed. In Clan terms that means kill it, but Ayla doesn’t of course. She hides away with a new born baby and a teared up downstairs and she survives again. She finally realizes that the baby looks like her and a clan man mushed together and she becomes the first person in the clan to figure out how babies are made. She makes the unfortunate realization that he’s half her and half Broud. She goes back to the clan saying this baby is not deformed he looks like me and everyone calms down. Except Broud, he is mad that she managed to survive again. This woman with the gall to survive.
The book ends with Broud becoming leader. He immediately forces Ayla to give her baby to her sister and banishes her with a death curse. She is forced to leave but not before she give Broud a piece of her mind. As she walks away, the Clan pretending she’s dead can’t help but feel that their good luck charm was just sent away.
In summary, women in the clan are inferior but Ayla is a different species. She questions constantly why the women are unequal and struggles to be submissive. She has a survival instinct that cannot by stopped. She is smarter than clan people and learns quickly the ways to survive, hunt, and heal as a medicine woman. She teaches herself to use a weapon from observation and then goes beyond their skills with logic. By the end of the book, she’s about 13 and taller than everyone in the clan and smarter too. She’s a bad ass bitch that cannot be subdued. I’m looking forward to reading book two The Valley of Horses.