I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Allman at several local author events, and I've been carrying his book around for months waiting for the right moment to get into it. I found that time last week. I preface this review by stating that I love history and really enjoy books that transport the reader to a different era. I loved Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth and World Without End. I devoured the Clan of the Cave Bear series back in the day, and enjoyed the simplicity of the storytelling. I was pretty sure I would enjoy this book, as I came into it, knowing already something about it.
This novel begins in the year 4040BC, long before the wheel was invented. It is a meticulously researched work, Allman has a clear understanding of the perils that his characters face. His storytelling technique is no-frills, and it suits his subject matter very well. The novel follows one family who begin as hunter gatherers, living on their own and moving often. The family has two sons, one who has a stronger interests in farming than hunting. He sees that an agrarian way of life supplies a consistent food supply and through the years he encourages other families to live near and help with the crops and form a village. The complex relationship between the sons, Ashlan (farmer) and Dubnoald (hunter) is fraught with jealousy and misunderstanding. Allman draws his characters with such detail in his simple way.
The brutality of the times, the battles between clans that often left many dead, is handled in such a matter of fact way, with none of the goriness so prevelant in our entertainment, that it was just a part of life. There is not a single aspect of their lives that is left out, illness, childbearing, battles, making of untinsils, day to day life, the religion of the time. This is a lovely book. There are many powerful moments, made more powerful by Allman's refusal to flourish. He writes a truly amazing moment, and then he goes right past it, at a mild walk, and writes another.
I certainly hope Mr. Allman continues this story. I would love to see the children grown and transforming their world, the way their parents did.