The Most Unkindest Cut of All: A review of The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel

I got hooked on Jean Auel (pronounced “owl”)’s Earth’s Children saga during the summer before last while I was recovering from a cystectomy. I went through the first five in a little more than three months and waited in eager anticipation of the sixth and final novel. More than 30 years in the making everyone who is a fan of Auel was waiting with baited breath and many for a much longer period of time than myself. My husband John bought it for me for our 8 year anniversary and I dug right in.

I was so happy to resume the adventures of Ayla and Jondalar and their young daughter Jonayla. At first all is well. Ayla is training with the Zelandonia, and I admit I got really upset with the Zelandoni-Who-Is-First. She seemed to expect Ayla to devote all her attention to the Zelandonia when not only was Ayla newly mated, but also a mother of a nursing infant. But at least the story was moving. Until Ayla begins her Donier Tour, a tour of all of the Sacred sites (read cave paintings).

Much of the tour happens in the second part. In fact, nothing happens in the second section that plays a role in anything later on. Feel freee to skip this whole bit. Auel seems to use it only to describe in minute detail every single cave painting in France and how to get there. I feel she would have been better served to just have included photos of the cave walls and used the pages to move the plot. As it is, one wonders if this section was written by someone else other than Auel, or if her publisher demanded a certain page count and so she gussied up some of her research notes and just glued them in and said “here’s your 600 pages”. It is not until the third section when the plot of the story picks up and begins to move again.

Over all I feel this novel is very shoddy work, poorly done and it kills me to say it because I love the other books so much. I just kept thinking to myself “Jean, you are better than this. What did you just get tired of looking at it? Want it off your desk?” It is tantamount to S. King’s killing of the Dark Tower books. This being the final novel, I had hoped it would have been something more like resolved. Instead it just felt like she gave up. Like she said to herself “sod it, I give up”.

And worst of all is the Mother’s song : a poem that has shown up from time to time in the books, but really was introduced in Shelters of Stone. Auel seems to have regurgitated a love child between Tolkien’s The Hobbit, King’s Bag of Bones and Darwin’s theory of evolution. I say this because our beloved Mother’s song is repeated so many times that I nearly have it learned by heart and that is with me skipping over it the last 6-7 times it was put in. In fact it was because of this over- saturation I nearly missed the big reveal when Ayla’s theory is proven correct when she receives her calling.

I must say to Ms. Auel, I am very disappointed in you and this novel.

**

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About Navah Vesper Anat Yehudit

I am an avid fan of the Ballet, am expanding my tastes in Opera and all all Classical Arts. I enjoy Japanese art, needle craft, crochet, knitting, and though my past-times are old-fashioned, and some of my ideas are, that isn't necessarily a bad thing in this age of progress for the sake of progress.
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