Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Reader's Diary #72- Jean M. Auel: Plains of Passage (up to p. 50)

There's a very good chance that if you dig through your parents' closet you'll come across Clan of the Cave Bear, the first in Jean. M. Auel's Earth's Children series. For some reason the baby boomers seem drawn to these books and I had to try and find out why.

For those of you who haven't read any of these books, I'll fill you in; after an earthquake, a 5-year old cro-magnon girl winds up being raised by Neanderthal, some of whom take to her and some of whom despise her. Eventually she is banished from the clan and finds more of her own people who also have mixed reactions to her quirks. Then she falls in love, has a lot of detailed (but very scripted) sex and travels around meeting others, and discovering materials and ways of life that I think we're supposed to believe could have lead us to where we, as a civilization, are today.

Like most books and movies, Auel seems to have difficulty maintaining the quality beyond the first. I found Clan of the Cave Bear interesting and unique, a great piece of historical fiction. Valley of the Horses had to be written because the story didn't feel finished without knowing if Ayla could survive among her own kind again, but it began to wane when Auel seemed to be creating some sort of super-woman who accomplished way too much for one individual. The Mammoth Hunters was just unnecessary and silly. It amounted to little more than a love story and was poorly written. That was probably reason I've held off this long to read the fourth (and a fifth, The Shelters of Stone, has been written as well.) But (when it comes to reading) I'm insanely stubborn and am determined to see this thing through to its end.

So far, it's just blah (and I've got over 700 pages to go). Fifty pages in and it's little more than a recap of the previous books and a prehistoric botany lesson. I get it, Auel did a lot of research- that doesn't mean she can work it into a story gracefully. The plot is supposed to be revolving around Ayla and her partner Jondalar, and their travels back to Jondalar's tribe. They're being accompanied by a couple of horses and a wolf (all of which were domesticated by Ayla in previous books). I remember thinking during Clan that I liked how it was historical fiction (with some liberties taken I'm sure, but I'm not an anthropologist) yet it felt almost like a fantasy novel. I've yet to have that feeling with Plains of Passage. I've yet to have any feelings about this book other than boredom.


John Mutford said...

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series is one example that doesn't seem to dwindle in quality beyond the first. Can anyone else think of a book series that maintains its quality throughout?

Christina said...

C.S. Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia...although the series has recently regained popularity because of the movie, it is still among my favourites as far as books go. I am reading the series to my kids now and we are at The Silver Chair (book 6). Still enough continuity to be "one" story, but each book brings its own wonderful characters and story line.

Robert Hiscock said...

Good question... but I don't think I've read that many series. I agree that, generally, Harry Potter maintains it's quality but a good editor could have shortened a couple of the later books without sacrificing the story a bit.

Aside from that, I'm not sure.

It's been a long time since I've read them, but I don't really think L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables books degrade through the run of the series. She manages to have the stories unfold without having them fall apart as Anne grows older, marries and has children. There pretty funny and moving througout.

And while they are not exactly a standard series, Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot and Ms. Marple books seem to be on an even footing quality-wise throughout... but I haven't read all of them all, so take that with a grain of salt.

peppylady (Dora) said...

Never read the clan of the cave bear. Just asked for threw Net flix. Hope it good movie usual the movie is just an out line of the book.

Christina said...

ah, yes...L.M. Montgomery.

I agree, rj...Bringing back great memories. Anne was great. Equally great, another trilogy by good-ol' Lucy, Emily. I also enjoyed the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, but they hokified them (made them hokey) with the TV show...

Oh, and they weren’t entirely fiction…more like “biographical”, so maybe they don’t apply.