x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Auel falls down in Land of Painted Caves

Jean M Auel's Earth Children series ends with The Land of the Painted Caves, an overwritten, under-plotted, disappointing novel.

The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M Auel (Hodder & Stoughton)
The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M Auel (Hodder & Stoughton)

Not with a bang but a whimper.

Nine years in the making - or, perhaps, 30,000 years overall and 31 years since the canon began - The Land of Painted Caves is the sixth and final volume in Jean M Auel's Earth's Children series.

It's overwritten, underplotted and thoroughly disappointing.

Of course, that won't stop the millions of fans of the Cro-Magnon wonder woman Ayla from buying it, anxious for the resolution of her prehistoric journey that began in The Clan of the Cave Bear in 1980. That offering and the subsequent volumes through The Shelters of Stone in 2002 were engaging storytelling, as the shaman-in-the-making Ayla learnt to survive on her own, polished her knowledge of flora and fauna, discovered her way with animals and found a mate in the hunky Jondalar.

All the more of a let-down, then, that the climactic novel descends into turgidity instead of following the earlier fine mix of description and action. Worse, Ayla and Jondalar turn into lovesick simpletons. You want to give them a good shaking - if not hurl the final book about them across the room.