Auel, Jean M.: The Plains of Passage
(researched by Juliana Bush)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

New York, NY: Crown Publishers,Inc. 1990

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

First edition in cloth published in 1990. First paperback printing in 1991 by Bantam.

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

384 leaves. 9 total unnumbered pages. 1-757 numbered text, 759-760 numbered "acknowledgements" page.

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?


6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?


7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

The text is well-printed in twelve-point(approx.) serifont. There are 42 lines of text per page. Each new chapter begins with an enlarged number four lines tall in the right-hand corner, a double line underneath that, and the text begins on the tenth line with an enlarged first letter that extends upward for four lines.

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

The paper is unwatermarked,and somewhat yellowed which suggests that the paper is middle grade. The pages are cleanly cut and sewed in.

11 Description of binding(s)

The book is covered in mustard-colored "binder's cloth." The writing on the spine is stamped in black ink and it includes the title, author, and library notation. The pages are sewn in. (The Chicago Manual of Style, 14th edition*)

12 Transcription of title page


13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

No information available.

15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

The first eight pages of the book, all unnumbered, include the following information: title, list of other books by author, title page including author, publisher,etc, copyright information, dedication page, blank page, title, blank. The end of the text is followed by a blank page, and then a page and a half of acknowledgements.

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A

No (Worldcat*)

2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

There were 1.25 million first printing copies of the book(Publisher's Weekly,August 31,1990* Lexis/Nexis*). There was only on
e printing by Crown(Worldcat*).

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

Paperback edition: Bantam,1991. Large print edition: Thorndike press,1991 1990. Other editions: Hodder, 1992.Coronet, 1992 1990. Hodder&Stoughton, 1991 1990. (Worldcat*)

6 Last date in print?

This book is still in print as of 1999.(Books In Print Edition-Ald.Ref*)

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

Information unavailable.

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)

By the end of 1991, 1,686,589 had been sold.(Bowker's Annual- 36th edition, Z731.b6*) Advance sales of the book totaled "at least one million, including 105,000 in Canada."(Lexis/Nexis-Publisher's Weekly, August 31,1990*)

9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

This ad was placed in the "Books at Random" section on the Crown Publishers home page. The ad includes an image of t
he book cover in the Bantam paperback edition along with the following text (including excerpts from two reviews): "Jean Auel's enthralling Earth's Children Series has become a literary phenomenon, beloved by readers around the world. Now, in a brilliant novel as vividly authentic and entertaining as those that came before, Jean M. Auel returns us to the earliest da
ys of humankind . . . and to the captivating adventures of the courageous heroine called Ayla. With her companion, Jondolar, Ayla sets out on her most dangerous and daring journey--away from the welcoming hearth of the Mammoth Hunters, and into the unknow
n. Their odyssey spans a beautiful but treacherous continent, the windswept grasslands of Ice Age Europe, casting the bold pair among strangers. Some will become friends, intrigued by Ayla's ways of taming wild horses and wolves. Others will become fi
erce enemies, threatened by what they can not understand. But always the orphaned Ayla and the wandering Jondolar will heed the voice and vision that urges them on, into the dark and spectacular heart of an unmapped world. For they are driven to reach tha
t place on earth they can call home. Together, they hold their future in their hands." "Pure entertainment at its sublime wholly exhilirating, best. . .Auel, a superb raconteur, has crafted a consistently engaging adventure with a solid historical underpinning."--Los Angeles Times "Thrilling. . .this magical book is rich in details of all kinds . . .but it is the depth of the character's emotional lives . . .that gives the novel such a stranglehold."--Cosmopolitan (*)

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion

None found

12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A

No movie adaptations. (*) Audio cassette recordings are available--Newport Beach: Books on Tape,1991 and Prince Frederick:Recorded Books,Inc,1991. (Virgo*)

13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

Spanish(Castilian): Las llanuras de t
ransito. Madrid:Maeva, 1993. Spanish(Argentinian): A traves de la llanura. Buenos Aires:Jauer Vergara, 1991. German: Ayla und das Tal der grosenn Mutter.Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe,1991. Danish: Pejsen over steeperne. Copenhagen:Samlerens Paperbacks,1992. French: Les enfants de la terre. Paris: Presses de la cite, 1991.(Worldcat*)

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A

None found.

15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A

This books is the fourth in a series entitled Earth's Children. The prequels are as follows:The Clan of the Cave Bear(1981), The Valley of the Horses (1983), and
Mammoth Hunters (1986).All of the books were published first by Crown, and then in paperback by Bantam.(Book Review Digest*,*)

Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

Jean Marie Auel was born on February 18,1936 to Neil Solomon and Martha Untinen in Chicago, Illinois. She attended Portland State University and then the University of Portland where she received an MBA in 1976. Prior to that, she married her business manager Ray Bernard Auel in 1954, and then tried a number of careers including work as a clerk, circuit board designer and credit manager. However, her fame has come from her writing, and more specifically, through her Earth's Children Series.Her career took off in 1980, when she was 44 years old. The books currently in print from this series are as follows: The Clan of the Cave Bear (1980), The Valley of the Horses (1982),The Mammoth Hunters (1985) and The Plains of Passage (1990).Excluding future editions in this series, her only other work can be found in a poetry anthology entitled From Oregon With Love and in a pamphlet about designing circuit boards.Some of her literary awards include The American Award for Best First Novel (1981) and the Most Popular Foreign Language Novel(1990). She has received honorary degrees from The University of Portland,The University of Maine,Mt.Vernon College, and Pacific University. She currently lives in Oregon with her husband and five children and is working on a fifth novel although the book release date is unknown. She is a member of the Author's Guild, the Authors League of America, National Women's Forum, PEN, Mensa, Oregon Writers Colony, and the Willamette Writers Club. Her literary agent is Jean V. Naggar.
(Galenet Literary*,International Authors and Writers Who's Who-13th Edition*,*)

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

This fourth novel in Auel's Earth's Children series was anxiously awaited by fans, reviewers, and booksellers. In a Publisher's Weekly review, an associate publisher stated that "there probably have never been
higher expectations for a novel." Although this book sells out of stores, reviewers seem unimpressed with this latest attempt at documenting the lives of two ancient lovers, Ayla and Jondalar. Auel is praised mainly for her "impeccably researched detai
ls"(Publisher's Weekly) of life in the Glacier Ages which include "encyclopedic accounts of birds, animals, fish, weather, vegetation, even soil conditions."(Newsweek) Other than the immense details, the reviewers comment on her large fan base, but seem
at a loss for the fans' appreciation. In a Cosmopolitan magazine review,the book is praised for the "depth of the characters' emotional lives." But, a reviewer for Time found the story much less enthralling; she states that "much of Plains reads like a
textbook: page after page listing animals and plants. The archaeology may be accurate, but stilted dialogue and 'his-loins-ached-with-need' sex scenes are alternately hilarious and pathetic." In her research, Auel "makes a case for a matriarchal Cro-Mag
non society" and in doing so, creates a "stereotyped wonderwoman [who] stops a cave lion's attack with the wave of her hand, learns languages in minutes, and uses birth control before anyone else knows how babies are conceived."(Time) Overall, the book r
eceives unenthusiastic reviews for its romance-novel sexual excesses and uninspired writing. Auel is praised for her attempts at familiarizing readers with a misperceived period and for keeping her loyal fans satisfied. The first three books in the series
have sold more than 20 million worldwide, but an unconvinced Newsweek reviewer makes the telling statement that "you have to love it to understand why anyone else does."

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

No reviews were found.

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

After being released, The Plains of Passage debuted at the top of the Publisher's Weekly Fiction Bestseller List, and remained on the list for about twelve weeks. During that span, the book topped the efforts of m
any best-selling authors, including Stephen King's Four Past Midnight, Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park, Jackie Collins' Lady Boss and Sidney Sheldon's Memories of Midnight. Jean M. Auel's salary of twenty five million dollars and combined book sales of
more than twenty million copies attest to the fact that the Earth's Children series has capitalized on a very profitable and devoted niche of the reading market. Her readers keep returning to her stories with their common formula of "man's emergence from
primitivism to civilization."(Reynolds) Auel herself, a "plump housewife," is uncertain about the secret of her success. She is an accidental writer who came up with the idea for her story while she was "in a free floating state . . .after spending practically every minute of her life raising
a family, working and going to school" (Bongartz). At the time she began her story, she was over forty years old and lacked both the literary experience and factual expertise that she needed to construct appealing and believable adventures. She turned t
o research in archaeology and anthropology and to writing advice from Techniques on Fiction Writing. She " knew that to make [her] story believable [she] would have to get in some depth of description"(Bongartz). And, it is this attention to extensive det
ails and description that has earned Auel great praise. But, what exactly is the appeal of Auel's Earth's Children Series? In a 1990 review for the Los Angeles Times Book review, one reviewer stated the books "incorporate numerous touches commonly found in commercial fiction: lusty protracted sex scenes (the heroine's sweetly ingenuous euphemism for intercourse is ?pleasure'
) ; natural and man-made adversity; and a suspenseful ?Perils of Pauline' atmosphere in which the protagonist must grapple with unanticipated, potentially lethal hazards ranging from mammoths to mudslides."(Bass) A definite factor in the book's popularity
is its diversity in content; with its adventures, romance, and social commentary, the book is not easily classified into one genre, and thus, it does not appeal to only one audience. After examining reviews and criticisms, the popularity of this book can
be attributed to its escapist nature, its timely release when interest was peaked in the prehistoric period, and its painstaking attention to detail. One of the particular strengths in The Plains of Passage, as with all of her books, is the "verisimilitude in her writing of the details of everyday life among ancient peoples. [It is this strength that ] has won Auel admiration from the scientific com
munity." She incorporates information that she has acquired from research and travel into her story. For example, "the character of Jondalar [Ayla's tall blond lover] is based on an actual skeleton found at the site called Cro-Magnon. . .one of them wa
s a man who was six feet, five and ¾ inches tall."(O'Connell) Although the characters are sometimes criticized for inaccuracy in the portrayal of their abilities, the readers are always fascinated by the accounts of human survival that involve "weapon-
making, horse taming, the invention of bow and arrow, the early science of herbal medicine, boat building, and much conjecture on primitive religion, clan structure, spirit worship, totem and taboo."(Sales) However, it is not this academic accuracy that c
an account for her amazing popularity. There have been many "caveman" books that never made it to the bestsellers list, including Elizabeth Marshall Thomas' The Animal Wife. Both came out at the same time, and both dealt with the life and social structur
es during the Ice age.
In a critical essay comparing the two "vastly different renditions of broadly similar themes . . .[it is concluded] that Thomas approaches her material is a more detached and meditative manner . . .[whereas] Auel's book consists of pure entertainment at
its sublime, wholly exhilarating best. Brimming with thrills, the emotionally charged confrontations and moments of high passion, the novel resembles a fairy tale in every impending catastrophe is averted, thus allowing the saintly hero and heroine to flo
urish." (Bass) From this critique, it is easy to deduce that Auel's readers do not choose her books only for their conscientious research and detail, but also for the escapism that the book offers in its fairy tale romances and dangerous adventures. Auel is able to successfully incorporate these aspects into her books, even when they are unlikely by "coaxing readers to suspend disbelief . . .[as she] coaxes them into her comforting fantasy world of ideal resolutions and triumphant valor."(Bass) It
is the cushion of this perfect world that readers looking for an escape ultimately turn to. Realistically, readers recognize the improbability of Ayla's character. She, on top of being a beautiful blonde, is assigned superhuman qualities; she is a "prim
ordial genius: medicine-woman, animal tamer, gourmet cook, craftsperson and ravishing beauty." (Sales) These qualities are mocked by one reviewer who questions this woman that is "clever enough to invent a contraceptive in an era when human reproductive
capabilities were apparently still a mystery." (Delince) And the story contains adventure that is completely foreign to any modern reader; their trips involve encounters with woolly mammoths, enormous glaciers, locust swarms, and hostile tribes that gree
t the two (with their domesticated wolf and horses) as dangerous spirits. It is during these adventures that Auel's detail become so necessary; she is able to pull the reader into situations that he or she?without Auel's extensive details- would have no e
xperience in. Auel uses this influence over the reader to her own advantage by including her own feminist beliefs in the context of the story. Auel describes herself as an ardent feminist, and in her research, she makes the claim for a matriarchal society. In the Pla
ins of Passage, Ayla is a strong and capable character, and there are often women in positions of power. Consequently, this novel has been examined in terms of its feminist assertions. In Diane Wood's article, "Female Heroism In the Ice Age", Wood suppor
ts the feminist claim and states that Ayla "faces the challenge of wilderness and survives, conforming to the pattern of the male hero in adventure tales. Love remains secondary to heroic action. . .[she] does not seek external validation by men . . .[an
d] she possesses inherent skills which are generally associated with men."(Wood) Auel's brand of feminism is described as one "that entails equality of access to political power and occupations, and a blending of gender roles." However. this story can not be considered a strictly feminist work; although the aspects of adventure seem
to classify it as such. Auel also turns to romantic conventions to propel her story, and in doing so, she sometimes deviates from her feminist agenda. Although she does make a concerted effort to include women in powerful and influential roles in the co
mmunities that they encounter, it is often only achieved through oppressive and unnatural force. At one point, Jondalar is captured by the S'Armunai tribe, which is a "dysfunctional society rules by women. . .The woman who heads the tribe is mad, and disl
ocates the legs of young boys as they pass through puberty."(Wilcox) Auel is seemingly turning against her feminist principles by suggesting that the government of this community is flawed, and that women can only achieve positions of power through force
. Auel is able to expand upon gender stereotypes of both men and women, and in doing so, she combines both the positive and negative in her characters. Ayla is an extraordinarily skilled woman, whereas Jondalar, her lover, is more domesticated and relaxed
. In doing this, "the novels question narrow definitions of masculinity and femininity to arrive at new answers which have implications for today's society."(Galenet database) In an era where women were entering the work force in increasing numbers, divorce rates were climbing and gender roles were being redefined, her novels--despite their prehistoric setting- touched upon very new and modern issues. And, it is this ability t
o tap into these societal trends that leads to the creation of a bestseller. Despite critiques and assessment of the book itself, one must consider the state of its audience as a telling factor in explaining its popularity. There is an essentially unans
wered core reason for the book's success among audiences, but trends at the time of release must have influenced the interests of the readers. Fortunately, Auel's novels appeared at a time when long-standing notions of prehistoric life were being reassess
ed. As A Newsweek cover relates, "the real-life Earth's Children of some 17000-35,000 years ago were far from brutish, unintelligent creatures of stereotype. On the contrary, their era, ripe with art and invention, was actually the ?cradle of human cult
ure' as Newsweek's Sharon Begley writes." These new discoveries challenged long-standing views of "cavemen" and Auel's books with the complexity that she assigned to her prehistoric characters, fit into this new appreciation for people of the Ice Age. The Plains of Passage can be reviewed and critiqued using the parameters of various different genres, and it is definite that the inclusion of so many parameters that aided in its widespread appeal. A critical analysis would be remiss in excluding its i
nclusion of techniques of adventure writing, academic writing, romance writing and social commentary. These, in turn, appeal to the escapist reader who finds sanctuary in the events of beautiful and gifted adventurers who exist in a foreign land, culture
, and time period. Auel's novel achieves extraordinary success for incorporating these variables into a text, that although lacking in raw literary talent, does provide the reader with a 757-page repose from the real world with its restrictions and bound
aries on adventure, gender and so forth.

Works Cited
Bass, Judy. Interfacing in the Ice Age. Los Angeles Times Book Review, 10/14/90.
Bongartz, Roy. Jean Auel. Publisher's Weekly, 11/29/85.
Delince, Danielle. The Plains of Passage Book Review. The New York Times Book Review, 11/18/90.
O'Connell, Nicholas. An interview with Jean Auel. At the field's end, 1987.
Reynolds, Joan. The Plains of Passage Book Review. School Library Journal, April 1991.
Sales, Grover. Primordial Passions of the Pleistocene Times: The Flesh is Willing, But the Diction is Weak. Los Angeles Times Book Review, 9/12/82.
Wilcox, Clyde. The Not-So-Failed Feminism of Jean Auel. Journal of Popular Culture, Winter 1994.
Wood, Diane. Female Heroisn in the Ice Age: Jean Auel's Earth's Children. Extrapolation, Spring 1986.

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