Jean M. Auel – The Land of Painted Caves
75. The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel (2011)
Earth’s Children, Book 6
Read my review of book:
5. The Shelters of Stone
Length: 758 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Started: 29 May 2011
Finished: 02 June 2011
Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I’ve been reading the Earth’s Children series for more than half my life at this point; of course I’m going to push through to the end.
Hey! Did you know that
France has painted caves? Lots and
lots and lots of caves.
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.
***In a nice bit of synchronicity, a few days after I finished this book, a friend asked me if there was anything happening over the weekend. I pulled up the local events calendar, and the first thing I saw was a 3D showing of “The Cave of Forgotten Dreams“, a documentary about Chauvet Cave (which is the oldest painted cave ever discovered, remarkably well preserved, and according to Auel, the “The Great Earth Mother’s Most Ancient Sacred Site”.) Luckily, my friend is equally nerdy about such things, so we totally spent our Friday night watching a movie about caves. And it was fascinating. Factually, it didn’t tell me a lot that I didn’t already know, but viscerally, it gave me a much better sense of what it’s like inside the painted caves than I could ever have gotten from even the nicest 2D photos. If you’re at all interested, it’s well worth the extra $3 for the 3D showing.
First Line: The band of travellers walked along the path between the clear sparkling water of Grass River and the black-streaked white limestone cliff, following the trail that paralleled the right bank.
© 2011 Fyrefly’s Book Blog. All Rights Reserved. If you’re reading this on a site other than Fyrefly’s Book Blog or its RSS feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is being used without permission.