Picks and Pans Review: The Clan of the Cave Bear

updated 09/15/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/15/1980 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Jean M. Auel

The story is set during the late Pleistocene epoch, about 30,000 years ago, and the clan's members have long arms and short, bowed legs. They're a kind of extended family with an absolute leader, who chooses a new cave after they've been forced from the old one by a major earthquake. Their brains, mainly memory storage banks, are at the back of their enormous heads. They use sign language plus grunts for speech. The clan's medicine woman adopts the heroine, who was orphaned by the earthquake and is fair-skinned, with blue eyes and straight limbs. She is also smarter. (It's the sort of part Raquel Welch played in One Million Years B.C.) Auel, a mother of five and former office worker writing her first book at 40, speculates that at the time the human family was of two different races, and interbreeding was necessary. Many details of the primitive life are fascinating. But Auel is a poor writer. Again and again she stops her story to insert "scientific" information that is only distracting. Her central figure grows up to be an early Princess Daisy, who in a male-dominated culture comes out the winner in every encounter. The story, which ought to suggest an epic, never rises above the level of back-cave gossip. This prehistorical novel is the first in a projected multivolume series to be called Earth's Children. (Crown, $12.95)

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