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Literature & Fiction

The Plains of Passage: Book 4 - Jean M. Auel

The Plains of Passage: Book 4

Author: Jean M. Auel
Book title: The Plains of Passage: Book 4
ISBN: 0517083507
ISBN13: 978-0517083505
Publisher: Random House Value Publishing (November 3, 1992)
Language: English
Category: Genre Fiction
Rating: 4.4/5
Votes: 376
More formats: lit txt lrf docx

Jean M. Auel’s enthralling Earth’s Children series has become a literary phenomenon, beloved by readers around the world. In a brilliant novel as vividly authentic and entertaining as those that came before, Jean M. Auel returns us to the earliest days of humankind and to the captivating adventures of the courageous woman called Ayla. With her companion, Jondalar, Ayla sets out on her most dangerous and daring journey--away from the welcoming hearths of the Mammoth Hunters and into the unknown. Their odyssey spans a beautiful but sparsely populated and treacherous continent, the windswept grasslands of Ice Age Europe, casting the pair among strangers. Some will be intrigued by Ayla and Jondalar, with their many innovative skills, including the taming of wild horses and a wolf; others will avoid them, threatened by what they cannot understand; and some will threaten them. But Ayla, with no memory of her own people, and Jondalar, with a hunger to return to his, are impelled by their own deep drives to continue their trek across the spectacular heart of an unmapped world to find that place they can both call home.From the Trade Paperback edition.
Reviews: (7)
Yikes, this book was hard to get through. Super-Cro Magnons Ayla and Jondalar leave their happy situation with the Mamutoi in quest of Jondalar's people, the Zelandoni, which involves traveling all across prehistoric Europe. If you don't understand what I just said, you are obviously not familiar with the series at all and should stop reading this review, since it is about book 5 in a long long series. If an epic journey across ice-age Europe sounds like an interesting novel, look elsewhere or write your own. This one is pretty terrible. Anyways, continuing with the synopsis, since Ayla and Jondalar are super, they have tamed horses, can heal all wounds with plants, and make great time. This is really wonderful since they need to cross a glacier before spring! If they don't get there in time, they might have to resort to..... staying in a comfortable cave until next winter with friends. And Jondalar Really Wants to Get Home!

Reaching the glacier is the main source of tension of the novel, coupled with the fact that people might not welcome Ayla and Jondalar with their flathead-friendly ways and their scary abilities to ride horses and tame animals. Flatheads, of course, are Neanderthals - the people who raised Ayla when she was abandoned as a child. Also, what if Ayla gets pregnant? Oh wait, of course she knows what plants to eat to avoid pregnancy. Phew! Oh no - now Jondalar thinks he is not man enough to make a baby with Ayla, but she can't tell him about her medicine because of reasons.

The problem with the book, besides contrived and stupid drama that occasionally bubbles up btw the happy couple, is that it is slow slow slow. They travel, observe animals and the landscape, they meet people, people realize how awesome Ayla is and want to adopt her and Jondalar. The flathead discrimination always dissolves before it can be an issue. Ayla and Jondalar never stay, though Ayla really wants to stop travelling. Everybody reacts the same way to A+J and they tell their story so often it is like Groundhog Day turned into a novel. Same Same Same. Un-sexy sex is had many times. The plants are described many times. Can you possibly imagine how many uses their are for cattails? Have you ever wanted to make a parfleche out of rawhide? Do you really want to read in excruciating detail how to bang flint rocks together to make tools? Perhaps you are interested in the ecological conditions necessary to create Loess Steppes? If you read the earlier books, you already know, but will get to read over and over again here.

There is one delightfully ridiculous interlude, involving a woman-ran group of prehistoric people. This group is imprisoning men, treating them terribly, and keeping women far away from the imprisoned men. Auel's prehistoric people for some reason all don't realize babies are made via the act of sex. They all believe it is due to swallowing spirits. Of course, super-Ayla is starting to put two-and-two together on this one, but no one else seems to have even thought of it. This crazy tribe decides to have an all-female society by isolating the men from the women. Thus only woman-spirits will be floating around to be swallowed, and only girl babies will be born. Of course Ayla, with a little help from Jondalar, solves all of their problems before rushing away to get to that glacier, but this is a nice divergence from the main story.

Sadly this book is a masterwork of plot structure compared to the next TWO novels in this series. I recommend readers of this series stop here and read no further. The first book is charming, but the series does not live up to the beginning.
Having recently reread the first three volumes in the Earth's Children saga, I learned of the last three and ordered them all. Eagerly awaiting their arrival, I then read reviews. This volume was out of print, so I'm reading it last. Having started it, I've put it down, not because I already know what's going to happen, but because, as with the sequels, it is tedious. It seems unlikely that anyone would begin here, but many prior events are often revisited and descriptive material, concerning plants for example, is repetitive.
I LOVE this series...such riveting tales of prehistoric man. Jean Auel is SUCH an amazing author, she makes her characters come to life, and so interesting. This is my second time through the series, the first time in paperbacks I had to buy a booklight so I could keep reading late into the night. I couldn't put the book down !! Not kidding at all. These days I have a Kindle Fire and a tablet so I have a built in booklight. Every bit as good second time around. Make sure you start with Clan of the Cave Bears...probably the best book of all of them. The movie was AWFUL...but the books are so good.
Tori Texer
Well-written, well-researched, but reads more like a textbook than a novel. There are frequent info dumps about plant and animal life in the ice age, which are enlightening, but ultimately forgettable. Clearly, the writer has great talent (and has written other great books), but is a tad too indulgent in detail in this story for her own good. I really didn't need to know every time that Ayla and Jondalar took a piss or made out (and they make out quite a bit in the story and we are spared no detail of the makeout). To be fair, a long journey story is bound to be low intensity, so the writer has to come up with ways to ramp up tension, now and then, to keep readers interested. One reviewer complained of the "save the day" motif that occurred throughout the book, and that is a legitimate complaint, but it may have been the only way to keep interest when the main characters were constantly on the move and could not establish long-term relationships.
For me this was a rather long and drawn-out read, while I enjoyed it, I felt it could have been a lot shorter than it is. Or it could have been summed up in another installment, as it got tedious as it went along. There is a lot that happens here or maybe it doesn't, depending on how one choses to look at it. If I'm to be completely honest, this is my least favorite book in the series, a bit slow perhaps, but good overall, if you can make it through to the end...And I almost stopped, I'm glad I didn't though, as it will be very interesting for me at least, to see where the story goes from this point on.
If I was Auel's editor I think I'd take the money, then try to somehow join the federal witness protection program so that I would never have to show my face professionally again. Does she even have an editor?

I enjoyed the first three books. I've have been recovering from a surgery and was seeking total escape, so was able to enjoy the books' strengths and largely ignore their weaknesses. However, reading the books in rapid succession certainly made me very aware of the weaknesses.

Unfortunately, this book is made up almost entirely of the weaknesses and almost none of the strengths. Vacuous dialogue, terrible writing, very weak plot and unbelievable repetitiveness. Even the few parts that could have been compelling are botched. I'm reading on a kindle, and had read the excerpts from later books in the series that came with each book, so I knew wolf was going to rip someone's throat out. That seemed like a fitting place to end, as it somehow captured my disappointment and frustration with Auel's squandering of something that had such potential in the beginning. That's as far a I read and now I'm done with this book and with this series.
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