The Clan of the Cave Bear was one of only a very small number of novels that made the BBC Top 100 Reads that I hand’t heard of prior to working my way through the list. Written by Jean M Auel and published in 1980, The Clan of the Cave Bear is the first historical novel in Auel’s Earth Children series which speculates on the possibilities of interactions between Neanderthal and modern Cro-Magnon humans.
Taking the 92nd place in the BBC Big Reads poll, despite being one of the lesser known novels, it still came highly recommended by my step-father and a colleague of mine – both of whom had read it many years previously.
Set in Ice Age Europe, The Clan of the Cave Bear follows the tale of cro-Magnon – or first early modern human – Ayla who is adopted by a tribe of Neanderthal after losing her parents in an earthquake. Despite their initial reluctance to do so, under the example of medicine woman Iza and holy man Creb, the clan begin to accept Ayla as she begins to immerse herself into their way of life. Her journey, however, is not one without its struggles; due to the inherent differences between herself and the Neandethal people a deep rift forms between herself and future leader Broud which threatens both her inclusion in the clan and, ultimately, her life.
Essentially a coming of age story, The Clan of the Cave Bear is an intensely researched tale that gives its reader a wonderful glimpse into what life might have been like over thirty-thousand years ago. A compelling read that deals with love, loss, identity and adventure, the Earth’s Children series is one I will eagerly return to once I’ve finished the remaining books from the BBC Big Read.