Warning: includes spoilers. I have been a big fan of this series, but this entry is an amazingly irritating book and by far the worst in the series. At least a third of it should have been lopped off by an editor who had read it closely enough to spot its copious repetition. For example, the dreadful doggerel of "The Mother's Song" was repeated 4 to 5 times. In addition, a lot of the descriptive portions were just plain boring. In prior books, I had mostly liked her descriptions of landscape, animals, and the uses of various medicinal plants. But in this one, Ayla visits a long series of painted caves and descriptions of what is painted where in each cave was beyond tedious. Finally much of the action and themes were taken right out of prior books. For example, Ayla & Jondalar have a misunderstanding and don't speak to each other, each convinced the other no longer loves them until Ayla takes the drug the Mogurs used in "Clan of the Cave Bear" and can't be awakened until Jondalar calls her back. This is the conflict that occupies much of the last half of "The Mammoth Hunters." Because I had liked the others, I kept listening--thinking it would get better. It never did.
Start with Bill Bryson???s 1990 gem ???The Mother Tongue???; remove Bryson???s trademark humor and substitute a scholarly tone; use many of the same sources and examples, but drop some and expand some others; include a few (but surprising few) examples from the dozen years between the two publication dates. There you have Bragg???s The Adventure of English. It was good, it was interesting, but it wasn???t original.
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