For most of its length, Jean M. Auel’s The Valley of Horses* is two stories about prehistoric Europe.
In the first story, a young woman who has been turned out of her adoptive home finds an unoccupied cave in a remote valley.
Ayla is tall, blonde, and beautiful, a skilled hunter, healer, and toolmaker.
She tames a wild colt and a great lion cub, but she’d rather have a human mate.
Meanwhile, 1,000 miles away, two human brothers are setting out to explore.
Their journey takes them to a riverside village where Thonolan meets and loses the love of his life.
Despondent, Thonolan packs to leave. Jondalar, fearing for his brother’s mental state, accompanies him, though he’d rather go back home.
After losing their boat and belongings, the brothers end up in the mountains where Thonolan is killed by Ayla’s lion and Jondalar—Did I mention he’s a gorgeous hunk?— is rescued by Ayla.
Valley is full of fascinating, esoteric information about prehistoric life, but Auel’s depictions of primitive men’s use of language is ludicrous. In one paragraph, strangers are bewildered by each other’s grunts; five sentences later they’re discussing fluid dynamics like engineers in a graduate seminar.
I’ve heard more plausible prehistoric male communication up the street at Bob’s Diner.
The Valley of Horses by Jean M. Auel
Crown. ©1982. 502 p.
1982 bestseller #6. My grade: C
*The Valley of Horses is the second novel in Jean M. Auel’s Earth’s Children™ series (The Clan of the Cave Bear was the first) and the only one of the series to make the 20th century’s bestsellers list.
© 2019 Linda G. Aragoni