Five year old cro-magnon girl Ayla is orphaned after an earthquake and wanders alone until one day she is attacked by a cave lion. She is taken in by a Neanderthal tribe known as the ‘Clan of the Cave Bear’ even though all the group do not agree on the decision.
Creb, the leader of the clan, takes care of Ayla and along with his sister they raise her.
Ayla's differing characteristics of blond hair and blue eyes cause problems within the clan, and she is known as a member of "the others". In time Ayla’s higher intelligence shows through and she is resented by some tribe members for it.
The story takes place around 35,000 years ago at a time neanderthals and cro-magnons (descendents of modern man) coexisted.
Although set in prehistoric times the traits of jealousy and hatred could well be applied to modern day, as could the determination of Ayla to overcome the persecution directed towards her.
For no apparent reason one member of the clan, Broud, detests her and singles her out for maltreatment at every opportunity.
Forget the religious hypothesis and Darwin theories, and settle into a good yarn.
The book is very well written by Jean M. Auel, and holds the reader’s interest throughout with visions of how the cave people lived and survived. She shows how the medicine woman uses certain plants for healing, and details hunting, food preparation and ceremony rituals among the many other day to day techniques needed for survival.
As Ayla matures she develops a natural tendency to learn new skills and along the way she learns the ways of the medicine woman, Iza, and also how to hunt.
It is this which forces a final stand between her and the new leader Broud, and forces Ayla to consider trying to find the ‘others’ who look like she does.