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Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 149

The Clan of the Cave Bear is the first novel in Jean Auel’s six-volume, prehistoric saga called Earth’s Children, pioneering the genre of “caveman” fiction. The novel was a huge commercial and critical success, winning the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award for excellence in writing (1980) and the Friends of Literature’s Vicki Penzinger Matson Award (1981) and being nominated for the American Book Award for best first novel in 1981. The sequel to The Clan of the Cave Bear, The Valley of Horses (1982) depicts Ayla’s struggle for survival after she had been cast out of the Clan. She eventually meets Jondolar, another Cro-Magnon man, and becomes his mate. Additional installments, such as The Mammoth Hunters (1985) and The Plains of Passage (1990), have been published. The sequels to The Clan of the Cave Bear have not been as critically acclaimed because of the many gratuitous sex scenes that they contain.

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