Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Clan of the Cave Bear

Somehow I managed NOT to read Clan of the Cave Bear between the ages of 15-23, like every other girl in America, but it's always been on my kitschy-to-read list because I've long heard that it's "good" and also that there are "bonkers sex scenes."

Then we went to France a few years ago and I got really interested in caves and cavepeople and cave drawings, so, I finally picked up a copy at my local thrift store (trust me, there's always a copy at your local thrift store).

So, it's about this girl, who's a Cro-Magnon, I guess, named Ayla, whose family gets killed in an earthquake.  She nearly dies, but is saved by this Neanderthal lady named Iza.  Iza raises her as her daughter, but the whole thing's fraught with a lot of suspicion and anxiety because the girl is from "the Others".  Their culture is extremely patriarchal and all the women have to literally bow and avert their eyes until the men allow them to talk.  I just cannot bear to read shit like that, unless there's a pretty quick subversion and triumph by the lady folks. Unfortunately for poor Ayla, it's just one damn tribulation after another, mostly because of the men in the tribe.  Eventually the tribe elder announces that she is "dead" (temporarily) because she illegally learned how to hunt, and even though she saved someone's life, she has to go to the "spirit world" for a month.  It's actually pretty easy for her to survive the spirit world, which, it turns out, is just the regular world, because she knows how to hunt and she's pretty smart, having a larger frontal lobe and whatnot.  Anyway, she survives that and returns to the clan and then, she starts getting raped by this rotten caveman all the time.  Eventually she gets pregnant and has a baby, but everyone thinks there's something wrong with the baby because it has a skinny neck and can't hold it's head up.  So, she runs off with the baby so they won't kill it, but when she comes back, they're like, Now you have to be "dead" again.

And all this happens when she's, like, EIGHT.

There were a couple parts I liked, like, how Jean Auel describes Ayla as tall, blonde and lithe but all the Neanderthals think she's really ugly.  Also, I liked how she described Ayla setting up her own cave and surviving all by herself.  I like to think I could do that, even though I would most surely die of hypothermia almost immediately.  PS, I saw these great photographs by Megan Cump that reminded me of the book.

But, the gross patriarchal overtones, the child-rape and complete absence of cave paintings means I'm done with those books FOREVER!  Although, will someone please tell me what happens in the rest of the series?  Just for fun?


nomadreader said...

I had a very similar reaction to you when I read this one earlier this month. It's not for me!

Amélie said...

You have to read the rest, that's all.

Special K said...

Just tell me, Amelie!