Holmes! Holmes's Reviews > The Clan of the Cave Bear

The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
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's review
Aug 16, 2007

did not like it
Recommended for: shallow spiritualists harboring secret fantasies of miscegnation
Read in August, 2007

I *really* wanted to dig this book. I have a burgeoning obsession with prehistory, evolution, and the antecedents of man, and a tale of Cro Magnons and Neanderthals is exactly what I'd love to read.

Sadly, this book does not contain that tale.

Instead, it's a goopy mess of inane metaphysics, prurience for prurience's sake, and a none-too-subtle dollop of racism, as the blonde-haired and light-skinned heroine shows the more primitive (and darker-skinned) Neanderthals how to do--well, just about everything.

This is a white man's burden fantasy writ large, and not writ very well.
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03/11 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-30 of 30) (30 new)

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message 1: by Angie (last edited Jan 07, 2010 04:41PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Angie I found this more of a feminist fantasy than racist. I guess it is a little speciest though :)

message 2: by Rodolfo (new)

Rodolfo That's one of the things I hate about most stories. Its always the fair skin teaching the savages. Or it's the Noble savage angle. I guess our culture doesn't believe a dark skinned person can truly be a hero.

Aoife I didn't see anything racist in this novel at all. Rather I think it was the author trying to portray how physically different Ayla is to the Clan for narrative purposes. Any racism in the book is within the reader's own mindset.

message 4: by Siobhan (new)

Siobhan Aoife wrote: "I didn't see anything racist in this novel at all. Rather I think it was the author trying to portray how physically different Ayla is to the Clan for narrative purposes. Any racism in the book is ..."

I agree. frankly the novel is about tensions, tensions between male and female, neanderthal and Cro magnon, old and new, the binaries of difference, which Ayla quashes.

message 5: by Wanda (new)

Wanda Some people see racism everywhere. Now go tell a blonde joke. *That's* not racist, is it?

Katie Mcsweeney I didn't like the book but it is not racist.

message 7: by J (new)

J Green I agree that there is a racist tone to the book. It reinforces stereotypes about white superiority.

Kelly Hodges I really loved this book. It was very interesting - different than any book I've ever read before. And I didn't find it racist in the slightest. In fact, you will see that b/c Ayla was "different" she was abused and thought ill of - based mostly on her looks. If anything, this book embraces judging people on their actions and their humanity, and not their coloring.

Kelly Hodges IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH COLOR. Researchers propose that b/c Neanderthals had limbs that were shorter and stockier than those of modern humans, and because of other anatomical differences in their limbs, the primary reason the Neanderthals were not able to survive is related to the fact that they could not run as fast as modern humans,& they would require 30% more energy than modern humans would for running or walking - THAT is the difference in Ayla and the others. Not Race.

Angie ok, equating neanderthals with dark skinned people is false logic, and seems to speak of the prejudices of the person making the connection. People of European and Asian descent have Neanderthal DNA, (therefor some of their ancestors were neanderthal) those of African descent do not. Neanderthals are as white as the Cro Magnan (modern humans). I reiterate that Clan of the Cave Bear is a more of a feminist fantasy rather than speaking of racial differences. (They are different species not races btw)

Junkie for the Written Word I find this review funny since new studies show that asians and caucasians have neandertal dna and suggests that crossbreeding between early human species occured... but only with light skinned people. heh

Holmes! Holmes Dig it: I'm not equating Neanderthals with dark-skinned people; this false association comes from Ms. Auel's descriptions within the text. I'm happy to add "not in line with current understandings of human descent" to the list of reasons not to read her work.

Angie :) I think on my list of reasons not to read her work, I'd say because she wanders off and gets pointless and really-really long-winded at about book 4. Whenever anyone asks me about these books I tell them to stop after The Mammoth Hunters

message 14: by Sarah (new)

Sarah You are wrong sir. That is all.

Nicole "I have a burgeoning obsession with prehistory, evolution, and the antecedants of man, and a tale of cro magnons and neanderthals is exactly what I'd love to read."

Apparantly not, that is after what you did, correct?
Differences in opinions about the book aside, if you are in fact interested in those things, why read fiction?
Racism? Really? I feel a little silly about arguing about characters that aren't real, but please point out at what point in the book the main character thought of herself as better? If anything, she wished herself to look more like the others, as well as perceiving herself as ugly, and coming to terms with the fact that no man would have her.

Danielle Yeah, considering Ranec was so awesome I really don't see how this could be the case.


Jalice This sort of smug criticism comes from a particularly stinky and hateful place. I pity you.

Kinga This book is many bad things but it is not racist. At no point were the Neanderthals described as 'dark-skinned' - I paid particular attention to that because I read your review before I started the book. It only said they had brown hair (not even black, but brown). So we had a blonde girl teach a brown-haired men how to do things... yeah, gee, that old stereotype again, about those super smart blond girls putting down brown-haired men. They weren't shown as more primitive as there is no reference. Ayla knows only their culture. And yes, call me racist, but Cro-Magnon were superior to Neanderthals as proved by the evolution.

Gerald She was a member of the European Early Modern Humans, who were evolving beyond what the Neanderthals were capable of. With superior brain power and reasoning skills, it was normal for Ayla to be able to do what she could do. Your charges of racism show what a smug, PC obsessed person you are, with no imagination. You don't get it, and you never will. Too bad for you.

Holmes! Holmes "Well I've been called a greasy thug too. And it never stops hurting..."

Nathan Whittle It's not racist, Neanderthals are not a race, they are a whole different species entirely. And history shows that unfortunately, homo sapians and their more direct ancestors had a higher fitness then Neanderthals, hence their extinction and our survival.

message 22: by John (new) - rated it 2 stars

John Humber Like the writer of this review, I really wanted to enjoy this book. It was ok I suppose but I found it far, far too long; the story and the characters just did not hold up well enough for that many pages. Edit it to about two-thirds of its length and you'd have a good book. I can't actually remember if I finished it or not. I certainly had no desire to read any of the others in the series.

message 23: by Marilu (new) - added it

Marilu I don't know how many times the phrase "not better but different" was used in this book. The idea of racism did not raise it's ugly head anywhere at all.. The rape was a male power play over a 'disadvantaged' female... If anything the perception of racism in this book says more about the author of those reviews.. In fact the 'neanderthals' seemed to have a deeply spiritual reason for almost every decision and the descriptions of mental memory capacity made them seem almost telepathic... "" Is that not considered 'higher' level thinking???

Matthew Valletta Racism doesn't come into play as the people Ayla lives are of a different SPECIES! Not a race at all. Race is a social construct of members of our own species.

Holmes! Holmes Yes, I understand that. By this rationale, however, the crows in Dumbo weren't racist caricatures because they were birds and Dumbo was an elephant. We're talking about fiction, here, where there are elements of, y'know, deeper meaning, allegory, metaphor...

If you want to stick to a strict reading of the text and enjoy the story on a surface level, that's fine and fun. But for me, I read some deeper influences that I found odious.

Matthew Valletta I had trouble seeing the other comments before mine earlier, but now that I've read them I see that my opinions have already been articulated by others, and more eloquently than I would have done, so I will just say that I appreciate your passion, but still respectfully disagree with you.

message 27: by Francisco (new) - added it

Francisco Jiménez Salazar it's a fact that neanderthals got to learn a lot of cromagnon stuff. Neanderthals were not dark in skin, it wouldn't make sense. AND! Europeans descend from Neanderthals. Such a hipster…

Teshai where was the racism? and how did she teach them everything in this novel when she was only five years old when she was picked up, and every other novel indicates she learned everything from her 'step-mom'. We really need to stop looking for racism in every damn thing, it is getting ridiculous.

message 29: by james (new)

james i want to read this book now just to find out if it's racist or not

Matthew Valletta I wish I never said anything at all on this thread. Am I to be reminded of this review for the rest of my life?

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