I’m afraid Jean M Auel is getting a bit lost in melodrama as this series goes on, and what is in many ways an interesting exploration of the roots of humanity gets caught up in a tangled and unrealistic lover’s tiff.
In this novel, Ayla who lived alone after being expelled from the Clan of the Cave Bear, and her lover Jondalar meet up with a group of mammoth hunters, known as the Mamutoi. The Mamutoi come to appreciate Ayla’s abundant gifts – and she makes a special connection to Rydag, a half-clan boy adopted by the Mamutoi who cannot speak and suffers all the prejudice that was such as large part of the last novel. Ayla teaches Rydag and the Mamutoi the clan the sign language , improving his quality of life tremendously.
The Mamutoi offer to adopt Ayla and give her a home, which she accepts with no people to call her own. Jondalar supports this, although is jealous of a dark-skinned carver called Ranec who makes it clear that he wants to make Ayla his. When he invites Ayla to his bed, she accepts as per her clan conditioning. For the rest of the novel Jondalar is jealous and removes himself from Ayla. What is ridiculous about this is that he never speaks to her about it, and at the same times understands why she might have done it. Then he makes excuses as to why he isn’t good enough for her, and how he still has concerns about her fitting in with his people. It is maddening.
Ayla just doesn’t understand Jondalar, which pushes her further towards Ranec. Its hard to believe any two characters could both be so obtuse.
There are some interesting facts to learn about life for early man, and when Ayla finds and raises a wolf cub, about man’s relationship with dogs. But the magic of this series is wearing thin as the themes of communication breakdown from the last novel are repeated too closely in this novel as well. Of course it all works out in the end, and we have three more novels yet to come. I hope the themes of the next few are a little more varied.