Friday, September 22, 2006

Clan of the Book Lovers

We met last night at Muntaj's house to discuss Jean Auel's The Clan of the Cave Bear and enjoy a nasi lemak supper.

It wasn't a book I'd wanted to read. Couldn't understand why I had such an adverse reaction to the title, only later realised it was probably because of the film poster of Daryl Hannah looking like Ozzy Osbourne.

The book tells the story of Ayla, a cro-magnon woman raised by a group of Neanderthals. Tall, blonde blue-eyed woman springs to the rescue of little ignorant brown people. A racist undertone, and a feminist agenda.

Most of the group enjoyed the book, Jessica (who lead the session) so much so that she's now gone tearing on to the sequels (bought in Times warehouse sale!).

There's no denying that Auel's book is a labour of love, and impressively researched. It is a bold and often fascinating attempt to reconstruct what life might have been like in prehistoric times. Most of us confessed to suffering from information overload at times, and many eyes skipped over yet another description of a herbal remedy. Some of us were bothered by not knowing where verifiable fact ended and fantasy began, and said we'd have rather read an authoritative non-fiction account of the Pleistocene period when different species of human beings co-existed. However, the book has definitely stirred the desire to know more in all of us.

New member Zen had us all laughing when she described Ayla as a Mary Sue - a term which originated in criticism of fan fiction to describe a character portrayed in an idealized way and lacking obvious flaws. Such characters project the wish fulfillment fantasies of the author.

Kumar, master of the soundbite, called the book "the world's oldest sexual harrassment case" and likened the novel to a film where thousands have been spent on special effects, but only a couple of dollars on the plot. We agreed with him that the story was predictable and terribly cliched.

I read halfway and found it a very easy breezy read. I know that a much younger self (14? 15?) would have enjoyed it very much and would have devoured the Earth 's Children series.

But Booksnob-self now kicks in and the thought of the Booker shortlisted titles sitting on my to-be-read shelf is pawing at my heart so I won't be reading on. (But I'm glad Jessica summarised the story of this book and the next for us!)

Started reading Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss (for review) and am so relieved, after Auel, to be back reading beautiful writing.


nyx said...

coincidentally i was just re-reading the series :) i love clan of the cave bear and mammoth hunters the best, i think i've read both at least seven times in the past 10 years. lovely read.

sympozium said...

Hahahaha!!! Loved your comments.

I thought Auel probably had a photo of Darryl Hannah on her desk when she set about describing Ayla, because when I saw the movie poster all those years ago when I was a teen, I thought, Wow!

Ayla - that's the Eric Clapton song they used as the movie's theme song, wasn't it? "Ayla, get down on your knees/Ayla, Creb just wants to please" -

Today, of course, Ayla would be played by Uma Thurman.

Anyway, stopped reading the series after the 3rd fact, reading Cold Mountain reminded me of reading Cave Bear - all those endless descriptions of herbs and plants!

lil ms d said...

i think i read this when i was in form 3 and gave up! by then the books de jour and taboo in sekolah asrama were harold robbins' and of course i read HR! maybe i should go and look the books up again...

SB - just finished white ghost girls. lovely lovely read...

The Visitor said...

for your next book club discussion, may i recommend Faulkner's Light In August.

what a FANTASTIC book! i am an instant Faulkner fan!!! (shame on me, i've never read him until now)


Anonymous said...

That was Layla.. I think it's Sanskrit not sure.

Faulkner hmm.. gotta look him up. As for stereotypes everyone does that these days.. King's The Dark Tower is full of them.

jading said...

The photo turned out after all! I'm pleased.. Yup, I enjoyed reading The Clan when I was about 16.. didn't enjoy it so much the 2nd time round and started finding fault. But the discussion was more interesting because there were many views- so it was worth it!

Anonymous said...

Come to think of it, what isn't a stereotype thse days ?

Lotus Reads said...

Don't think the book is my cup of chai at all, but I absolutely enjoyed reading your post!