Book Review: The Clan of the Cave Bear

The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth's Children, #1)The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The blurb: This novel of awesome beauty and power is a moving saga about people, relationships, and the boundaries of love. Through Jean M. Auel’s magnificent storytelling we are taken back to the dawn of modern humans, and with a girl named Ayla we are swept up in the harsh and beautiful Ice Age world they shared with the ones who called themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear.

A natural disaster leaves the young girl wandering alone in an unfamiliar and dangerous land until she is found by a woman of the Clan, people very different from her own kind. To them, blond, blue-eyed Ayla looks peculiar and ugly–she is one of the Others, those who have moved into their ancient homeland; but Iza cannot leave the girl to die and takes her with them. Iza and Creb, the old Mog-ur, grow to love her, and as Ayla learns the ways of the Clan and Iza’s way of healing, most come to accept her. But the brutal and proud youth who is destined to become their next leader sees her differences as a threat to his authority. He develops a deep and abiding hatred for the strange girl of the Others who lives in their midst, and is determined to get his revenge.

My review: I started reading this book in August 2013, but didn’t finish it until February 2015. That’s right, it took 18 months. In fairness, I did have a lot happening in my life which was a contribution; but, having said that, I read numerous other books during this time.

When I started the book, I was drawn in and held. I enjoyed the character of Ayla. I was fascinated by her situation and interaction with the Clan. However, half way through the book I got bored. I was tired of the never ending descriptions and the long lessons on how plants and roots were used. Honestly, I didn’t care to know these things and found myself skimming whole paragraphs and then whole pages until something appeared to be happening in regards to the actual storyline again.

I put the book down one day and didn’t pick it up again for twelve months.

Then in February I decided that as I had read half the book, I really should finish it. I didn’t hate the storyline, I just didn’t enjoy the author’s ramblings. So once again I visited the world of Ayla. And, yes, I did skim the rambling parts and only concentrated on the storyline itself. When I did this, I was fine with the book and was happy to read it. Sadly, I was even happier to finish it.

Although I do own the second book in the series, I have no desire to read it.

The Clan of the Cave Bear is not awful, but it is not for me. I cannot recommend this book.

Book Review: Still Alice

Still AliceStill Alice by Lisa Genova

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb: Alice Howland is proud of the life she worked so hard to build. At fifty years old, she’s a cognitive psychology professor at Harvard and a world-renowned expert in linguistics with a successful husband and three grown children. When she becomes increasingly disoriented and forgetful, a tragic diagnosis changes her life—and her relationship with her family and the world—forever.

At once beautiful and terrifying, Still Alice is a moving and vivid depiction of life with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease that is as compelling as A Beautiful Mind and as unforgettable as Ordinary People.

My review: My mother has early dementia. Eight months ago I moved into the family home to become her primary carer. I would be lying through my teeth if I said it was easy, because it’s not. Sometimes I feel as if I cannot continue. Sometimes I feel as if I will let my father down (before he passed away I promised him that I would look after her). Often I feel I will let my Mum and myself down too.

Then, I was given Still Alice. What can I say? I needed to read this book, at this time. It helped me see things from Mum’s point of view. It showed me the confusion she must be experiencing, the total loss of control over her life, the sadness and grief she is going through. Yes, I include grief, because she is grieving her old self, just as I am grieving for that same person.

This book helped me to accept what was happening, and to find a new level of patience.

If you have a family member suffering from dementia then you should read this book too. But even if you don’t know anything with the disease you should still read the book because it is quite simply brilliant.

Alice is the top of her friend, in the prime of her life and then she starts forgetting things and getting confused. She thinks she’s working too hard, or perhaps she has started menopause, but she doesn’t think for a section she actually has something like early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. For heaven’s sake, she’s only 50.

But she does have the disease and once it takes hold, it progresses quickly. Before she knows it, she is forgetting how to get to the lecture room, let alone what she is meant to be lecturing. She is disorientated in places she has been visiting for decades. And the faces of people she should know are not recognisable.

Confused? Of course she is. Scared? Yes.

The story shows the effects of the disease as it slowly eats away her life. It shows how it affects the relationships she has with the people closest to her (family, friends and work colleagues).

It left me feeling sad for those affected and sad for the carers. But it helped me to understand and accept my own family’s situation.

Honestly, the book is brilliant and I couldn’t put it down. A must read.