What should I read if I love Clan of the Cave Bear?
December 7, 2008 11:06 AM   Subscribe

I love The Clan of the Cave Bear series by Jean Auel, and am looking to read other series in the same vein (i.e. historical, fact-filled, plot driven awesomeness) What would you recommend?
posted by melodykramer to Writing & Language (38 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Do you want caveman type stuff, or is just historical stuff okay? I love the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, which takes place in the 1740s in Scotland. Lots of good political history in there (I never even knew about the Jacobite risings until I read those books). Also, there's almost as much sex as in the Clan of the Cave Bear books. ;)
posted by olinerd at 11:10 AM on December 7, 2008

I enjoyed a lot of Harry Turtledove's historical SF. (I never got into his WWII series, but I like his Roman-era stories, and his miscellaneous other SF for that matter.) Like the Cave Bear stories, it's not exactly historically accurate, but there's enough accurate detail in the background to be interesting from that POV.

Less obviously similar, but awesome enough to make up for it, are Barry Hughart's books (Bridge of Birds et seq.), set in “an ancient China that never was”. If you like those you could seek out the Judge Dee (Robert van Gulik) and Kai Lung (Ernest Bramah) mysteries, though they're less fantastical.
posted by hattifattener at 11:24 AM on December 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

Depending on your answer to the "caveman" question, you might like the Sharpe series by Bernard Cornwell. Lots of details about the Napoleonic war era and Mr. Sharpe is quite a ladies' man...
posted by fuzzbean at 11:45 AM on December 7, 2008

The Killer Angels
The Great Train Robbery
The Devil in the White City and Thunderstruck by Erik Larson. Both of those books rocked my world.
Gates of Fire by Pressfield another awesome book.

I've been meaning to get into Turtledove's works as well, but it's so cold and the library is such a long walk away.
posted by Science! at 11:45 AM on December 7, 2008

You might enjoy Reindeer Moon and its sequel The Animal Wife, by Elizabeth Marshall Thomas.
posted by subatomiczoo at 11:47 AM on December 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Ivory Carver Trilogy by Sue Harrison (Mother Earth Father Sky, My Sister the Moon,, and Brother Wind). This series has been compared to Jean Auel's stuff over and over, and it does fulfill a lot of the same longings. Ancient cultures, survivalism, natural disasters, orphaned or isolated female protagonists finding their place in the world, sex and violence aplenty, battles, loooooove. Each book involves the same basic cast, but focuses on different characters.

The aforementioned female protagonists are not as supernaturally, metaphorically inventive and culture-shaping as Ayla -- none of them have Ayla's resume of say, pioneering the concept that sex results in babies, or discovering the Lascaux cave. But even though I admittedly love Ayla, these characters are faaaaar more believable, and that may make you like them more.

Also, no stupid-ass Jondalar dopes in this series. The love interests are well-developed characters that don't annoy you with their lameness when they make Love Connections with your beloved heroines.

I really recommend these books if this is your kind of thing.
posted by Coatlicue at 11:51 AM on December 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory was great, and I am reading the sequel now.
posted by kimdog at 11:53 AM on December 7, 2008

Harry Turtledove's alternative WW2 stuff was awful. Avoid avoid avoid. Put me off Turtledove for life.
posted by schwa at 11:55 AM on December 7, 2008

It's not a series, but I found Dance of the Tiger by Björn Kurtén to be pretty good.
posted by CKmtl at 12:00 PM on December 7, 2008

These People of the Wolf books seem quite similar, if you really want something in the same vein.
posted by cider at 12:03 PM on December 7, 2008

I've found Barbara Hambly's "Free Man of Color" series to be quite good, and very thoroughly historical. (She was a history major and does a lot of research just for the sheer joy of it. Her historical settings are always very fully realized.)

If you don't mind vampires, "Those Who Hunt the Night" had a very nice Edwardian setting floating in the background (and a smattering of older periods, thanks to the fact that the majority of the cast has been undead for at least a half-century.)

For cavemen, well... not so much, really. Can't help with that.
posted by Scattercat at 12:03 PM on December 7, 2008

Response by poster: oh my gosh, this is all so helpful. i like the cave people stuff, but i really like the over-the-top stuff that auel has ayla do (i mean, i'm surprised she hasn't invented cell phones yet...) they're melodramatic, and informative, and oh so good -- thanks for the suggestions!
posted by melodykramer at 12:05 PM on December 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Lincoln by Gore Vidal. Not quite in the same vein, but it was the first novel that sprung to mind while reading "historical, fact filled, plot driven awesomeness".
posted by benzenedream at 12:11 PM on December 7, 2008

James Michener's and Edward Rutherfurd's novels are usually based around a specific place, telling (fictional) stories of interconnected people that lived there through time. It's not the same as Auel's style, but definitely packs in the history.
posted by Clandestine Outlawry at 12:12 PM on December 7, 2008

Try Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth and its sort-of-sequel World Without End. Tons and tons of history (12th-century England) but also super over-the-top dramatic (murder! betrayal! secrets kept for generations! vengeance! illegitimate children! etc etc).
posted by ethorson at 12:18 PM on December 7, 2008

Random juicy historicals I enjoyed this year:

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant -- set in Biblical times

Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor -- plague! sex! drama!

Marie Antoinette: The Journey by Antonia Fraser (not a novel, but action-packed and sweeping nonetheless)

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden
posted by mynameisluka at 12:49 PM on December 7, 2008

If you like the alternative cave-people history, you may like Julian May's Saga of Pliocene Exile.
posted by rodgerd at 1:07 PM on December 7, 2008

Native American vs. Expanding America: Fools Crow. Maybe even Things Fall Apart for a later African story.
posted by Science! at 1:24 PM on December 7, 2008

Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, trans. Tiina Nunnally, is a trilogy -- The Wreath, The Wife, The Cross. It presents as perfect a picture of life for a medieval Norwegian woman as is possible, although I wouldn't blame anybody for not being able to finish it (it's her whole life and that's a lot of medieval Norway). But I couldn't put it down.

I recommend all the ancient Greek fiction of Mary Renault (The King Must Die, The Last of the Wine, and more) and the novels of Norah Lofts (a very prolific and strangely forgotten novelist in varying settings, mostly British).

You may or may not enjoy Gary Jennings, specifically Aztec and Raptor. His historical research is impressive, but the sex is rampant and ridiculously trashy (as is the dialogue), and there are rivers of blood. Still, I kept turning the pages.

These are heavy on the human relations, which I think is what interests you since you didn't specify Caveman Times. But I am particularly interested in prehistoric fiction myself. I'm always looking specifically for novels set in that time that don't postulate that there was a way human society was supposed to be once before agriculture and corruption and things (Ms. Auel, I'm looking at you).
posted by Countess Elena at 1:25 PM on December 7, 2008

Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle has it's feet firmly planted in a whole ocean of historical awesomeness. Pretty fun read, too.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:32 PM on December 7, 2008

The Bookstore I work at has a section called Prehistoric Romance; this is where Jean M Auel and a few other authors live together in strange, strange harmony. So while I haven't read them myself I can tell you the other notable authors in this mini-genre: William Sarabande, Sue Harrison, and Kathleen O'Neal Gear (the Gears write in scifi and mystery and.. well, you name it).
posted by tamarack at 2:01 PM on December 7, 2008

Shogun by James Clavell

English guy gets shipwrecked in 1600s Japan, has to adapt himself to Japanese culture and deal with the massive number of plots going on around him. Tons of interesting stuff going on all over the place. The facts are not always entirely right, but the book certainly has a lot of other things going for it and moves at a fast enough pace that it is difficult to care. Don't be frightened by the length, it goes fast. Unfortunately, none of the rest of the books in the series quite live up to the first, especially Gai-Jin (it is just awful).
posted by pwicks at 2:04 PM on December 7, 2008 [2 favorites]

You may like She Who Remembers, an Anasazi Ayla-esque character. She isn't as universally easy to like as Ayla. In other words, she isn't perfect and doesn't invent EVERYTHING but her involvement in history that we can recognize is high and she is an abandoned woman who manages to survive by being smart and reaching out to new ideas beyond her cultural norms.
posted by Foam Pants at 2:21 PM on December 7, 2008

Agaguk by Yves Theriault
posted by scarello at 2:41 PM on December 7, 2008

Seconding the suggestion of the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. I'm rereading the series right now for the 4th or 5th time, and still enchanted with the story and amazed with the level of detail throughou
posted by Mimzy at 2:42 PM on December 7, 2008

Obligatory plug for the Aubrey-Maturin saga, greatest novel of the 20th century, in 20 volumes! Stephen Maturin is among the awesomest characters in all literature, in my admittedly fangirlish assessment. A constant reread and endless delight!

A Suitable Boy is also very historical, fact-filled, plot-drivenly awesome, and at the end of it you should be able to make a shoe from scratch.
posted by rdc at 3:31 PM on December 7, 2008

Get the Game of Kings. It's the first book in the Lymond Saga from Dorothy Dunnett is amazing. I re-read it every year.
posted by damiano99 at 3:59 PM on December 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

2nding Memoirs of a Geisha and Devil in the White City. The latter is not "historical fiction," it is actual history but reads like a novel. Brilliant.
posted by radioamy at 4:07 PM on December 7, 2008

You'd probably like the Angelique series, set in France during the time of Louis XIV. They're out of print- but still around in libraries or second-hand.
posted by Coaticass at 4:32 PM on December 7, 2008

Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:47 PM on December 7, 2008

James Michener
posted by HuronBob at 5:57 PM on December 7, 2008

I was coming to recommend Gabaldon's Outlander series, too. Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 6:13 PM on December 7, 2008

Response by poster: Whoo hoo! These are great. I've already read Eco and Devil in the White City -- and I'm looking forward to reading some of these other ones! Thanks everyone!!
posted by melodykramer at 6:16 PM on December 7, 2008

All the Mary Renault stuff, plus Sarum by Rutherfurd. Enjoy!
posted by noahv at 6:28 PM on December 7, 2008

also, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles trilogy re: Russia/English history (specifically "Anna").
posted by noahv at 7:00 PM on December 7, 2008

Another recommending Gabaldon's series. I've also just read The Bridei Chronicles (a trilogy) plus Wolfskin and Foxmask (two in series) all by Juliet Marillier. They're all set in roughly 500AD around Pictish Scotland/Orkneys/Norway and have a touch of fantasy aside from the hypothetical historical stuff.

They deal in varying degrees with the rise of Christianity in Northern Britain, and how it contrasts with the druidic religions, as well as dealing with Viking invasions and settlement in the Orkneys.
posted by tracicle at 8:01 PM on December 7, 2008

Definitely Outlander.

Also, for some nice tidbits of late Victorian life, mystery, and a dash of romance:

Deanna Raybourn's Silent in the Grave and Silent in the Sanctuary.

Tasha Alexander's And Only to Deceive, A Poisoned Season, and A Fatal Waltz.

They're not as dense as the Auel stuff, but they are fast reads.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 6:10 AM on December 8, 2008

The Flashman series is usually listed under this type of question. The British Empire in Victorian times, with a few escapades in the U.S..
posted by Chuckles McLaughy du Haha, the depressed clown at 7:51 AM on December 8, 2008

« Older Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree   |   Slow Down? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.