Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Revisiting The Land of Painted Caves by Jean M. Auel

The Land of Painted Caves
By: Jean M. Auel
Release Date: March 29, 2011

Back in November I was at NCTE in Florida and just missed the chance to snag an ARC of Auel's most recent book, The Land of Painted Caves. Luckily the gentleman working the desk said he would take my name and if possible send me a review copy. I was shocked and super excited when the book showed up in mid-December. I devoured the book in about a day and half. Immediately I sat down and write a review (which can be found here). A few people commented right away, mostly wondering how I got a copy, and mostly I forgot about the post. Then the book was released at the end of March and suddently my comment area blew up. People were looking for a place to discuss the book, which many felt was a bitter dissapointment. Even skimming through the comments here on this blog will reveal numerous reasons that people were disheartened, some of which I pointed out in my original review. Still, at the end of my review, I threw out the 5 star rating. Even with all the things I disliked, I still had some connection to the book and the story and I loved it anyways. Almost the way you do when a family member dissapoints. You shake your head, you hope for better next time (if there is a next time) but you don't lose those warm feelings for them.

The book wasn't great, but I still loved the series, and that influenced my rating. As the discussion wore on, I realized that conveying that in a post and especially a starred rating was hard. People were only seeing those 5 stars and then looking at all the dissapointment surrounding the book and feeling like there was a disconnect between what I said and my starred rating. In fact one commenter was "shocked and appalled" by my 5 star rating. To be honest, I felt the disconnect too, and posted this in the comments (and later added to the review):

"On a side note I read and reviewed this book in a span of a few days. I was basking in warm fuzzies of visiting with these characters again. There were, for certain, parts I didn't like and I was dissapointed in, as I noted in my review. Still, I tossed the 5 star out there. I wonder, now that I've had time to reflect, if I wasn't judging based on the good feelings the series as a whole gives me and not the merits of the individual book. I won't change the rating, because at that moment that's how I felt, but it does give a little food for thought on taking the time to really reflect on a book like this where you come into it with a huge bias. "

So what do you do when you find your feelings changing over time? I refuse to change my original rating, because, as noted in the comment, that is how I felt at the moment I closed the book. I grew up with these books, and I tend to be rather forgiving when things go wrong. I appreciate the huge amounts of research that went into this book, and I'm sympathetic to the fact that it seems at times it's the research that got into the way of the story, a bad habit I've been known to suffer from. My solution was to revisit it, hash out my thoughts, and post again on this book.

Looking back at the review- I think it's solid. I explain my deep connection to the series and outline my own feelings as to where I thought it fell short. It's funny how a review can stick with you. The farther away from reading the book (and writing the review) I get, and the more people I speak to, the more I realize that this book was a fairly monumental failure. Storylines were left dangling, people we love acted out of charecter and there were inconsistancies with the previous books. I didn't read the rest of the series prior to picking this one up. Frankly, I didn't have the time. So there were many things that others picked up on, like the inconsistancies with prior books, that I didn't have fresh in my mind, so I missed. Honestly, I'm glad I was in the dark on those as I read. Ignorance is bliss as they say, and here it kept me from being even more dissapointed then I already was.

I no longer do starred ratings, not because of this particular review, although the reason fits the bill. Ratings are personal and when you condense it down to stars you miss out on all the reasons why. It's unfair to all involved. You miss out on my reasoning and it might give you a false impression of the merits of the book. In this case- my 5 star, while warranted in my mind for the way the book made me feel, it wasn't earned in terms of the content of this individual book seperate from the series. Still, the shortcomings of this one book don't effect my affection for the series as a whole or for the author Jean M. Auel. In fact, I sincerely hope she writes another book, albiet a shorter, better edited one, and ties up all those loose ends. If not, I will still look back on the series, including this last book, with affection.

So, what say you readers? Did you love this book or hate it? Do the shortcoming in The Land of Painted Caves change your feelings for the Earth's Children series? Are you hoping for more books from Auel? Do starred rating systems totally throw you off? Sound off below in the comments. As always, keep it clean. I don't like to delete comments, but I also won't put up with a lot of cursing or negativity (to eachother). The comment thread on the original review has been amazingly wonderful, so let's continue that same atmosphere here.


  1. I'm allowing myself to quote my own comment on your actual review and also quoting my own blog....saves repeating myself...

    "Generally i feel as tho this book was a rushed project. It has untill now felt as though i've been reading a second or third draft of a novel in the process of being edited and although i'm not for a second going to say that it's a horrid book i will say that it's a piece of unfinished craftmanship i've been reading.
    I LOVE caves. I loved the descriptions of the caves but it did get a bit much and a lot was repeated.
    If she had followed the "plains" recipe and embellished the events along the way making the caves into an in-between i think i would have liked the tour better...
    But it is an important part of the series mythology and the caves had to be there...
    The mothers song was also a bit repetative.
    during her calling i was expecting her (hoping rather...) that she would take a spirit-journey and see her son or a solution to the issues between Clan and the others, but instead she saw what every other animal on the planet knows insstinctively."

    I agree with you... It's below Ayla's dignity and i hope Auel writes a final installment to finish this beloved saga.
    The series is kinda my "guilty pleasure". a lot of my friends see it as an embellished Harlequinn series and it's been described as "housewife-porn" by more than one of my friends but i can't help being addicted... it's been my "drug" from a very early age!!!

    But i still LOVE the book for it's connection to a fictional universe i've often daydreamed i could be a part of. I've spent weeks in the forests trying to build myself a cave-man-life (to no avail as people would come with rations and flashligths and other modern equipment, plus the fact i couldn't make flint tools and had to use a modern knife...and matches... But hey... i tried...)
    Whenever my life has been tough, i have returned to Ayla. not necessarily reading the books again but imagining how she would deal with the situation.
    I could not have made it thru my teens in one piece without Auel's fiction. I would not have thought of loosing my virgintiy as first rites and therefore feeling sooo special the next day if i hadn't read those books. I'm pretty much the only one of my friends who had a peaceful and serene "first rites" as a result of thinking of it in terms of a ritual, not a random act of sex...

    sorry... totally off topic...LOL

    I don't care about starred ratings. they are too limited and show opinions in a black/white way.

    Loving your blog BTW...

  2. Thanks for the comments- and I have to say I agree with almost everything you said- including the whole trying to bea cave-person experiments. I often went out with my bow and arrow (aka spear-thrower) and just pretended to be Ayla and reconnected to nature and whatnot. Granted I was 13, but still. I also carried an Amulet forever. I still keep it although I no longer wear it every day. There were many moments I looked back to the books and thought "If she can survive all that, I can survive this."

    They are great books and great characters, this last book just didn't live up to the rest. It's dissapointing, but it certainly doesn't taint the love I have for the rest of the series.