One of the reasons I've been so quiet lately, apart from being in a black funk over my current no-job situation, is that I have been struggling to finish with the last instalment in Jean Auel's Earth's Children-series, which I started to read 30 years ago. It tells the story of an epic journey (in more ways than one) undertaken by a European Early Modern Human woman, raised by Neanderthals, who 30,000 years ago travels from the Russian steppes to the French southwest, taming animals and inventing things along the way. I loved the first novel, called The Clan of the Cave Bear, and quite enjoyed the next three, but this last one, the final part of the series published 9 years after the fifth, has proved a sore disappointment. It's entitled The Land of Painted Caves, and it certainly holds a lot of descriptions of painted caves within its pages. For roughly 2/3rds of the book, Ayla, the heroine, when she's not making tea, or introducing herself and her tame wolf to new characters who appear and disappear from the narrative with bewildering speed, is looking at cave paintings as part of her training to become her adopted people's holy woman. Repetitive and boring...and so is the last part, in which the plot of one of the earlier books in the series is rehashed: Ayla and her mate Jondalar fail to communicate, but in the end he's the only one who can reach her when she lies in a drug-induced coma and brings her back to the world of the living by the power of his tearful pleading. I wonder how this book ever got past an editor. It's as if the author just couldn't be bothered to bring any kind of structure to the mountain of research that went into the background of it, let alone shape any kind of story to play out in the foreground from it. Utterly disappointing; a sad and unworthy ending to an otherwise mainly enjoyable series.
And now I've set myself the challenge of reading another series of novels this year, ages after everyone else has already done so: I'll be starting on Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in a day or two. First though, Jane Austen and Northanger Abbey, which has been sitting on my nightstand for far too long.