Ever since I decided to write this post, I have been trying to remember the name of the couple that introduced me to these books. I think that they were Neville and Sue, and they used to be the neighbours who lived over our back fence. When I was in my mid to late teens I used to go and babysit for them, and it was during one of those occasions they introduced me to these books. I loved the world that Auel had created with it's mix of history, drama, love, tragedy, and the fact that they were all chunksters didn't hurt either, because this was at the stage in my reading life where the bigger the book was, the more likely I would want to pick it up and read it.
Jean Auel is one of those authors who doesn't seem to need to put out books very regularly but still can maintain a very loyal supporter base. There was a 12 year gap between the Plains of Passage and the Shelters of Stone, and by the time the final book comes out in March next year, there will have been a 9 year wait for the finale of Ayla and Jondalar's story.
The books in order (and the year that they were originally released in) are:
- The Clan of the Cave Bear, 1980
- The Valley of Horses, 1982
- The Mammoth Hunters, 1985
- The Plains of Passage, 1990
- The Shelters of Stone, 2002
- The Land of Painted Caves, 2011
They are set in the Ice Age, and open with Ayla, a young Cro-Magnon girl who has been orphaned during an earthquake, and who is taken in by a Neanderthal clan (known throughout the novels as The Clan). Ayla is very different from her Neanderthal family but she learns to communicate with them, and learns various skills including healing, and weaponry, much to the clan leader's displeasure. She is, and always will be an outsider though.
Without wanting to spoil too much, the novels follow Ayla's journey as she travels to find others like her, as she learns more skills, and as she tries to balance the two different sides of herself. She struggles with socialisation, and with being a relatively independent woman in a very male dominated world.
There are times that Ayla can be something of a too-good-to-be-true character and certainly modern sensibilities are catered for. The last book was a little more average than I remember the earlier books being when I read them 20+ years ago. That doesn't mean that I won't be eagerly anticipating The Land of Painted Caves. You can be guaranteed that I will have my name down on the lists to get my copy as soon as possible when it comes out!
Below are a selection of covers of the different books showing the various styles of covers that have been given to this series over the years. It will be interesting to see if the publishers rebrand the whole series when the final book is finally released.
The other thing that is interesting is that I read somewhere that the author is looking forward to working on something different now. I can't imagine how hard it will be for her to move onto something new after working on the same series for 30 odd years.
Have you read the Earth's Children series? Are you looking forward to the last book? Share your thoughts on the series in the comments.