I also stick with my opinion that after Cave Bear, the books took a sharp nose dive into "prehistoric pornography." The last one.. Shelters of Stone though, was a little better, although Ayla was still just as perfect... annoyingly perfect, as ever. To the point where you want to just grab the girl and bang her head into a rock until she stops being so damned clever and making the rest of the primitive people look so bad. "What do you mean you're still afraid of animals? Ayla hear hangs out with dogs and horses and lions... PUSSY!"
I also admit, that I have read many other "primitive man" stories since.... written by a lot of different authors. Some have been men, some have been women. Some have been a delight to read, others have been tough going.
But, if I've learned one thing about primitive mankind stories... it's this.
There is always
She's in pretty much every story. In fact, where she fails to appear, it's almost as if she's merely the exception that proves the rule. It's almost as if I can't really enjoy the story until she makes her damned appearance, because I know she's there somewhere. If she wasn't mentioned, it was because really now, she had More Important Things To Do Than To Be In This Stupid Book.
Sometimes The Girl is the main character. Sometimes she's the mate of the main character. That's as far down in the pecking order as she'll go. She's never the sister of the mate of the main character... or even the sister of the main character. Nope, impossible. If that were to happen, she'd spontaniously combust or something. Even if she starts out as a sister/cousin to the mate of the main (male) character, you can bet sis or cousin will be offed by the end of the first third of the book to make room for her to rise up to her proper place.
The Girl is always considered ugly by "her people." Yes, she is. Terribly ugly. Disgustingly ugly. However, her disfigurment is often something that makes her positively beautiful by today's standards. Her people will think only black hair is beautiful and she'll have golden blond hair. Her people will look at overweight women as a sign of beauty so she'll be thin... (except for the breasts. The Girl always has a nice rack) Her people will all have muddy brown eyes, hers will be a startling blue or green. Her people will find huge noses with flairing nostrils to be beautiful, she will have a pug nose with three adorible freckles right across the bridge. Yes, this actually made some sense in Clan of the Cave Bear, because Ayla was being raised by a different type of people...but this theory seems to follow every other book, even books where everyone is the same type of being. Even if The Girl is totally blood related to someone else in the group. Like her father and mother were both raised in the clan, got mated, had her. The entire group will consist of fat, black haired brown eyed people with huge noses... as they have been for 200 thousand million years, as all The Girl's brothers and sisters are, but suddenly these two people, clear out of the blue managed to produce Jessica Simpson.
The Girl must always have had a miserable life. Maybe "her people" died and she was taken in by these other people. Or, perhaps because she's considered so hideous by everyone, she has had a miserable life. She is often beaten. If not by her own family, Someone Important In The Group will live to make her life miserable. The rest of the group will not come to her defense, because... well, as we all know,
The Girl is the scapegoat too. If hunting is bad, you can bet The Girl gets blamed. If the creek runs dry, it's somehow The Girl's fault. Since in all of these books The People are quite primitive and believe that just about everything is a spirit or a diety of some type, you'd think they'd get a clue and if The Girl is so damned powerful she can make the spirits of all the animals around suddenly take a powder, maybe you'd better not piss her off and keep beating on her. But they never learn. She gets blamed, she gets beaten. If times are hard, she's the first one to be deprived of food/clothing/shelter. She's also the first one to be raped, usually when she was still a child.
Despite this brutal, mean life, The Girl is never mean. Oh, she might harbor the occational nasty though, but as soon as it appears in her mind, she feels horribly guilty and quite often will cry pitifully for her meaness. Usually when The Girl gets that stray thought about how much better life would be if the group weren't always picking on her, if for once they would stop blaming her for every wrong that befell them, you can almost hear the distressing theme music and figure in the next few chapters Something Terrible will happen to the group, which will seal her fate and let her know that deep down she's a miserable excuse for a being with No Right To Live. (That is, of course, until she meets the Hero.)
Usually this miserable life is over in the first third of the book. Or, in the case of a series of books, it may last until the end of the first... maybe even the second. Then The Girls's life will dramatically improve as The Man will come along.
The Man is almost as annoying as The Woman, as he too was raised by The People.... maybe even the same People she belongs to, maybe not... but somehow, even though he grew up with the same/similar standards of beauty and the same morals, meaning that yes, it's okay to blame/abuse the
Yes, I understand that Beautiful People often make better stories. Really they do. Romance relies on that formula, exclusively, cause well, we all know that it's the babes and hunks on the cover of the books that sell the puppies, not the free coupon inside. And, I can deal with that. But really, does it always have to be the Same Damned Girl? Why can't she be beautiful by the standards then? Why can't she have had...if not a perfect life, at least one where she wasn't beaten every time she blinked? I mean, they imply that life was nasty enough for women back then... that all women were pretty much posessions, isn't that enough? does she have to have it extra hard?
And, why can't she ever be a bitch? Really. This demure, quiet, gentle female shtick gets pretty old pretty quick. Yeah, I can see where she might not want to backtalk within the group, for fear of more beatings, but for christ's sake, when she's out doing all the dirty work, cause that's all she's good for, why can't she ever flip the prehistoric bird in the direction of the camp and go, "Screw you!" to herself just to get it out of her system? And, after doing that... *gasp* nothing terrible happens to the group! Wouldn't that be amazing?
I gotta figure that everyone... and I mean everyone who managed to survive in those times, was pretty tough and fantastic. Think about it. Life was tough You either worked your ass off and made it, or you died. Many times you worked your ass off and you didn't make it anyway. Just the day to day life is enough to make anyone in these books a hero in their own right. So, is there really a need to create The Girl? Must you have The Perfect One(s) tag along too, just to make everyone else look bad?