I first read the Earth's Children series when I was in about seventh grade, while looking in a used book store for a book to do a report on. At first, I could not put Valley of Horses down, it compelled me! And I freely admit, I am a frustrating reader. I skipped every chapter with Jondalar and Thonolan, until of course, Jondalar and Ayla met, and then went back and skimmed. Even though I virtually (and literally) hacked my way through the book, Auel kept me enthralled. I couldn't leave it alone.
Then came the sex. I must admit, at thirteen years old, I was completely apalled that someone would have the gall to write such ilicite materiel. I skipped the sections, and completely missed out on the meaning of Ayla's awakening.
It wasn't until three years down the road, as a junior, that I found a replacement for my decapitated Valley of Horses. This time, I actually read from page one to the end without bouncing around, or skipping. I think it took being older, a mature mind, and the knowlege of the power of sexual relations between two people in love to truly appreciate Auel's masterpiece.
And it wasn't just the story and the sex that kept me into the book. It was the excellent insider view into the life of a prehistoric person. I could see myself walking on the beach with Ayla, digging pits to trap horses, and sitting next to Jondalar, watching him knap flint. Auel has researched so much; from botany, to hunting, to skills of the Ice Age that it isn't hard to accept something thirty five thousand years behind us.
I would encourage people to read this book, if you don't, you're missing out on a real treat.