Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Shelters of Stone

Book Review:
Shelters of Stone
Jean M. Auel
Crown Publishers, 2002
Fan club

Twenty years ago Jean Auel published her first novel Clan of the Cave Bear set in Europe some 30,000 years ago. The premise was Ayla a girl who is physically a modern human is adopted into a tribe of Neanderthal men (The Clan) at the age of five after her own family and tribe was killed in an earthquake. Of special interest was the carefully researched background into what life was like 30,000 years ago. This has since grown into the Earth’s Children series. Shelters of Stone, is the latest chapter in Ayla story. .

The series to this point.
Ayla, discovered there was no place for her in the Clan she set out to find her own people. Along the way she discovers a new way to make fire, a spear thrower and how to domesticate animals. She has also learned much of the healing arts and has some sort of spiritual gifts. She meets Jondolar who was on a “Journey,” he set out from his tribe to see the world. They travel back to Jondolar’s tribe to be mated and settle down.

The story is of Jondolar’s homecomings and how Ayla is accepted into the Zelandonii. Ayla, as a foreigner, would be normally be the lowest status person, but Jondolar is the son of the former chief and brother of the current chief, which with his won accomplishments makes his a very high status person. His mate should be a high status person. Also the spiritual leaders recognize her gifts and want Ayla (who is not certain she wants to) to have high status so she can be inducted in to the spiritual leader ship. How this is resolved is the main plot of the book. There is also plenty of action as this hunting and gathering community struggles to survive in unforgiving ice age climate.

Like all Auel’s novels, she has thoroughly researched what life was like in southern France 30,000 years ago. Her descriptions of stone age live are very interesting and informative, but overdone to the point that they detract from the main story. I enjoyed them even so, but if they do not interest the reader they can be easily skipped. The anthropology/sociology of this Stone Age tribe seems to be remarkably “politically correct contemporary American.” Again with more detail than necessary. The religion is the presumed Goddess cult.

In Auel’s books the interest is in the incident and detail not the main story line, they are a much better read than one would suppose from a general description. This is good light summer reading, I picked it up because I began the series and became interested in the characters. Shelters of Stone can stand alone but I would recommend starting with Clan of the Cave Bear, which is by far the best in the series, and if you find the characters interesting continue to read the others. There are enough open plot lines for at least two sequels.

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