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.