The Valley of Horses | Critical Review by Grover Sales

This literature criticism consists of approximately 2 pages of analysis & critique of The Valley of Horses.
This section contains 407 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
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Critical Review by Grover Sales

SOURCE: "Primordial Passions of the Pleistocene Times: The Flesh Is Willing, But the Diction Is Weak," in Los Angeles Times Book Review, September 12, 1982, p. 3.

In the following review, Sales finds the plot weak and the dialogue anachronistic in The Valley of Horses.

The Valley of Horses, Jean M. Auel's sequel to her blockbuster novel The Clan of the Cave Bear, set in ice age Ukraine, 30,000 BC, is a well-researched children's story fleshed out with steamy primordial sex, women's lib, soap opera plots and "Me, Tarzan, you, Jane," dialogue.

One must admire the painstaking anthropological research Auel has poured into her proposed trilogy. Even readers turned off by the gimmicky form this novel assumes may find fascination in the technique of human survival in the late Pleistocene Epoch: weapon-making, horse-taming, the invention of bow and arrow, the early science of herbal medicine, boat building, and much conjecture on primitive religion, clan structure, spirit worship, totem and taboo.

Ayla, the ice age heroine outlawed by her clan for violating the taboo against women hunting, is several cuts above her tribe, something of a primordial genius: medicine-woman, animal tamer, gourmet cook, craftsperson and ravishing beauty. Her story is entwined with the wanderings of Jondolar, 6-foot-6 superstud making the long trek down the Danube to the Black Sea. Early on, the author telegraphs their cataclysmic coupling, and readers who have stuck it out this far are rewarded with epic copulations.

There may be the sound idea of a novel in all this, but Auel's odd notions of primitive speech are a continual nuisance, as in the following exchange between two brothers:

"There isn't an unmated woman in all the Caves … who wouldn't jump at the chance to tie the knot with Jondolar of the Zelandonii, brother of Joharran, leader of the Ninth Cave, not to mention brother of Thonolan, dashing and courageous adventurer."

"You forget son of Marthona, former leader of the Ninth Cave of the Zelandonii, and brother of Folara, beautiful daughter of Marthona, or she will be when she grows up…."

And if this weren't enough, Auel's narrative style seems weirdly at variance with the era she's describing. When Ayla finds she can start fire with flint, "That was the serendipity." Again, when Ayla's cave becomes fetid with the stink of rotting corpses, "She wanted a breath of air untainted by malodorous emanations." This goes on for 500 pages; the pages are large and the type small.

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This section contains 407 words
(approx. 2 pages at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Grover Sales