Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Land of the Painted Caves, by Jean M. Auel

I’ve decided to work a little bit more on my reviews. I realized that I was giving more opinions and almost zero synopsis. How are you guys going to know if the book is worth it if all I say is: I like it!!!! (Most of the time I do, jiji…or for the Anglophones hihi :p). So I will try to add a synopsis, either the one from the back of the book or another website (e.g. Wikipedia) with slight modifications if possible to avoid spoilers. Once again, when is a saga, this is hard to avoid, but I promise I will do my best.

Synopsis (from Wikipedia)
In this three-part book, Ayla is 20 (in part 1), about 23 (in part 2) and 26 (in part 3) (My book said 36, typo?) and is training to become a spiritual leader for the Zelandonii. Most of the first and second parts of the book involve Ayla's acolyte training to become Zelandoni. The third part of the book contains most of the action of the story and plot line.
In the first part, Ayla is in a Summer Meeting, and she begins to learn what an acolyte does. Ayla and the First decide to start Ayla's Donier Tour, which is a tour of the sacred caves in the wider region. Jondalar, Jonayla, and their animals as well as many others decide to travel. The second part is mainly about the caves that they visit. In many of the Sacred caves the Ancients, the people before the Zelandonii, left drawings. During this time, Ayla meets many other Zelandoni, and one of them gives her a pouch of dried herbs smelling faintly of mint. Ayla also discovers that the Clan visits some of the sacred caves as well. In the third part of the book, Ayla is marking the passage of the sun and moon's phases as part of her training as an acolyte. One night she is distracted and decides to share Pleasures with Jondalar, starting a baby. However, most of her Cave leaves for the Summer Meeting, but Ayla stays behind until Midsummer so she can finish her observation of the celestial bodies. During this time she takes care of Marthona, her mother-in-law, as well as the others in her Cave.

My review
First of all I have to say something, I read this one in French, whereas I read the other 5 in Spanish, so it took me a little longer than usual. The first part of the book starts a little bit slow, but true to her nature Auel takes us back several times to past events. I’ve seen other people’s reviews, and I know a lot of them are not happy about this fact, but they seem to have forgotten the fact that the last books are separated by more than a couple of years. Unless you read them in a row (like me) being remembered as to why this particular event has a big significance, should be appreciated. 

The part of the Donier tour was my least favorite. You see, I really enjoy the description of daily routines, how Auel embellishes what was for them a daily process. Making a dress, cooking. The reason why I liked this saga so much, is because it makes it easier to imagine day-to-day characters back in Cro-Magnon era. However, when Ayla visits the 5th or so cave…it stops being such a novelty. 

I expected a little bit more of development for the part where they finally capture the band of “ruffians”. With such an elaborated description of other rituals, I thought we would see a type of judgment of the sort…instead the faith of these guys is determined and settled in a few pages. I think the author could’ve dedicated more time to events like this one, or even Jonayla’s confrontation to the horse hunters, instead of talking again about the paintings in the caves. With that in consideration, I have to say that I really admire Auel for actually going and visiting the caves, and somehow I understand that she wanted to put all the knowledge acquired in the book.

Now, I will agree with Wikipedia. The last part was the one with more action going on. Ayla finally gets to be a Zelandoni, officially, after being called by the Mother, and a lot of things happened in the Summer Meeting, but there were a couple of things that really bother me at this part.  First of all **spoiler alert** I am majorly disappointed at Jondalar! I mean, the whole time I thought, oh he is so kind, so dedicated to Ayla, and then boom, because he has “needs” he goes sleeping around. Yeesh. And then Ayla decides she doesn’t want to be there anymore, her daughter will be better off without her. Give me a break!. Until this moment I loved Ayla as a heroine. I mean the second book (The Valley of Horses) was amazing. She is alone, yet she gets by perfectly. And then, she gets heartbroken and thinks she better die? No, no, this was not nice, for me it killed the all powerful woman image I had from Ayla. That and the way Auel sent Brukeval and Marona to disappear, was just to sudden. I did like, however, the way the word “father”is presented, how the role of the man in conception is portrayed. And how finally Ayla understands her visions from the first book. For those of you that, like me, are wondering what was the root all along, well…I don’t know for sure. I found another blog that suggests that it might be derived from Mandragora, but honestly I cannot know. However I know they are several plants with similar effects used by Amazonian communities, although I am not versed on the exact names or preparations.

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