The Clan of the Cave Bear was initially met with reluctance by publishers when Jean Auel approached them with her plan for a series of novels set in prehistoric times. Although meticulously researched, the sheer length of the original manuscript made many publishers unwilling to take the risk on the untried author. Indeed The Clan of the Cave Bear is one of those novels that is either loved or hated.
The story concerns a young girl named Ayla who is orphaned by a natural disaster and then adopted by a group known as the Clan. Ayla is very different from the Clan: physically, she is blond and blue-eyed and the people in the Clan are stocky and dark; she is expressive, sensitive, and smart and they are dour, plodding, and cold. Historians and anthropologists immediately reacted to Auel's book, maintaining that her assumptions about Neanderthal life were not realistic. In fact, Auel seems to be basing her view of the Neanderthal on the racially motivated "bad" science of late nineteenth-century French anthropology. It is precisely this "bad" science and overt racism that has prompted many anthropologists to denounce the novel.
However, the reading public truly seems to enjoy the novel that sold over one hundred thousand copies in the first three months after its publication. The Clan of the Cave Bear is an original work of fiction that explores the world of human beings in prehistoric times. Her novel has even inspired fans to write sequels about the Clan available on the World Wide Web (www.onebridgehome.com/altauel)