View Full Version : Prehistory
09-10-2009, 05:21 AM
It might be stretching things a bit to count novels set in prehistory as historical fiction, as there's no historical record to work from! But they're certainly not contemporary novels. It's been quite a while since I read one of these - I liked Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel a lot, but have not been really engaged by most of the prehistoricals I've read since then.
I just read a new one, though, Daughter of Kura by Debra Austin, and found it quite interesting. It's a coming-of-age story about a Homo erectus girl in Africa 500,000 years ago. I've reviewed it here (http://www.HistoricalNovels.info/Daughter-of-Kura.html).
09-10-2009, 07:25 AM
This sounds really interesting, Margaret. Coincidentally I just received a copy of Joan Wolf's "Daughter of the Red Deer" this afternoon - I picked it up cheap from an online auction site the other day.
09-10-2009, 02:21 PM
Sometimes I find myself in the mood for these, but haven't read very many of them. I did read Clan of the Cave Bear when it first came out oh so many years ago; liked it, but never pursued Auel's others and it sounded like that series declined with each one.
I have William Golding's The Inheritors in my TBR. It's about the extinction of the Neanderthals. I recently read Jack London's Before Adam, a very short book that falls in this speculative area of envisioning what life was like during the mid-Pleistocene.
09-10-2009, 03:37 PM
I enjoyed the first four of Auel's books and read them in quick succession. They were a bit samey but I enjoyed them. I bought the fifth one that came out much more recently after a long gap, but I haven't read it yet and I'm not sure I ever will. So long had passed since I'd read the previous ones, I wasn't sure whether I needed to re-read them first.
I've read a few of the books in the First North Americans series by W. Michael Gear & Kathleen O'Neal Gear. Not bad at all.
James Michener's cross-era epics tend to start with a section set in prehistorical times and he does it very well.
09-10-2009, 04:53 PM
I highly, highly recommend William Golding's The Inheritors. I read it years ago and thought it was superb.
09-10-2009, 07:44 PM
One of my favourites is Jim Crace's "The Gift of Stones". (http://www.amazon.com/Gift-Stones-Jim-Crace/dp/0880014504) It's set in a period of transition, as the Stone Age moves into the Bronze Age. As much as anything it's a parable about the perils of refusing to embrace change.
I also have a soft spot for AA Attanasio's historical fantasy novel "Hunting the Ghost Dancer" (http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/a/a-a-attanasio/hunting-ghost-dancer.htm)
I enjoyed Jean Auel's "Clan of the Cave Bear", but as the series progressed I found it increasingly improbable as Ayla turned into a sort of prehistoric super-sexy Superwoman and lost interest.
09-10-2009, 07:55 PM
All of Jean Auel's prehistoric series are reasonably interesting and very well researched, but none of the later ones IMHO were as exciting as Clan of the Cave Bear. She caught some criticism for a certain too-good-to-be-true quality about Jondalar that dampened the intensity of the stories. But the details about life in the Ice Age, especially in The Mammoth Hunters, were fascinating. Clan of the Cave Bear set up a lot of suspense for me about Ayla's mixed-race Cro Magnon/Neanderthal son, so I felt increasingly disappointed with every subsequent novel when the plot didn't revolve around a quest to find him. If I heard that one of the sequels revolved around her finding him or renewing her quest for him, I would want to read it immediately!
09-10-2009, 08:37 PM
I agree, Margaret. I'd really like to know what happened to Ayla's son as well. I seem to remember reading somewhere that Jean Auel is planning a further book in the series. Hopefully there won't be such a big gap this time before the next one appears.
09-10-2009, 08:39 PM
It's already been quite some time since the last book came out isn't it?
09-14-2009, 01:30 AM
Hmph. My reply to this didn't get posted. I must have forgotten to hit "submit" after I previewed it. Yes, the spacing between these novels has gotten longer with each one:
The Clan of the Cave Bear (1980)
The Valley of Horses (1982)
The Mammoth Hunters (1985)
The Plains of Passage (1990)
The Shelters of Stone (2002)
Hopefully, it won't be 2025 before she publishes the next one!
Meanwhile, I've just posted an interview with the author of Daughter of Kura on my blog (http://www.historicalnovels.info/historical-novels-blog.html). It also includes a link to Debra Austin's website (http://debraaustinbooks.com/index.php), which is pretty interesting.
One of my favourites is Jim Crace's "The Gift of Stones". (http://www.amazon.com/Gift-Stones-Jim-Crace/dp/0880014504) It's set in a period of transition, as the Stone Age moves into the Bronze Age. As much as anything it's a parable about the perils of refusing to embrace change..
I second this recommendation. Not the first I read by this author (think Quarrantine is my favorite, but any of his books are good), but this one probably stands among my fav.
I read the first Auel, loved it, and like others was disappointed in each new one (think I read or tried to read the next two). Reread the first again, and found it laughable.
09-19-2011, 06:09 AM
Today (September 19, 2011) is the 100th anniversary of Nobel prizewinning author William Golding's birth, and Annis has contributed a review of his historical - or prehistorical - novel The Inheritors to HistoricalNovels.info in honor of the centenary (see review (http://www.HistoricalNovels.info/Inheritors.html)). "Evocative and disturbing" she calls it. With more information coming out about Neanderthals year by year, it might be timely to read or re-read this novel.
09-19-2011, 05:16 PM
The 19th of September being the 100th anniversary of novelist William Golding’s birth, I thought I’d mark it with a review of The Inheritors,.This moving and disturbing book was his personal favourite of all his novels, written with memories of the Second World War still fresh in his mind and imagination fired by the recent public exposure to the Lascaux prehistoric cave paintings. (Coincidentally, the 71st anniversary of the discovery of the Lascaux Paleolithic (http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2010/09/17/70th_anniversary_lascaux) paintings was celebrated on the 12th of September.) The shaman stag/man figure on the cover of the first edition of The Inheritors comes from the Trois-Frères (http://www.lugodoc.demon.co.uk/SCTB.HTM) cave system, also in in France, and is significant to the story.
Golding was profoundly affected by his wartime experiences (he served in the Royal Navy and took part in the Normandy D-Day invasion). He later said, “Before the Second World War I believed in the perfectibility of social man; that a correct structure of society would produce goodwill... but after the war I did not because I was unable to. I had discovered what one man could do to another... I must say that anyone who moved through those years without understanding that man produces evil as a bee produces honey must have been blind or wrong in the head.”
Like many other authors, Golding uses a historical setting to draw parallels to his own time, emphasizing the universality of the human condition. Given that we have also just marked the 10th anniversary of 9/11, The Inheritors seems particularly apposite – its theme is the “line of darkness” which is modern man’s inheritance; our ability to perpetuate horrors upon our fellow man and mistreat the world we live in seen as the price of evolutionary progress.
Stylistically brilliant, (his use of linguistic skills to recreate a Neanderthal consciousness is remarkable), it’s typical Golding; contentious, deceptively simple but multilayered, and open to as many interpretations as there are readers.
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