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Mazo de la Roche (January 15, 1879 – July 12, 1961), born Mazo Louise Roche in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada, was the author of the Jalna novels, one of the most popular series of books of her time.

Mazo de la Roche

Mazo de la Roche, December 18, 1927
Born January 15, 1879(1879-01-15)
Newmarket, Ontario
Died July 12, 1961 (aged 82)
Toronto, Ontario

Contents

Biography

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Early life

de la Roche, in Clarkson 1928

Mazo de la Roche was the only child of William Roche, a salesman, and Alberta (Lundy) Roche (Alberta was a great-great niece of David Willson founder of the Children of Peace through the latter's elder half brother Hugh L. Willson). [1] She was a lonely child and the family moved frequently during her childhood due to the ill health of her mother and her father's many jobs. She became an avid reader and developed her own fictional world that she called "The Play" in which she created imaginary scenes and characters. She wrote her first short story at the age of nine.

One of the family's moves meant some years on a farm owned by a wealthy man who farmed as a hobby. There de la Roche began to develop her fantasy world of rural aristocracy that would become Jalna.

At the age of seven, her parents adopted de la Roche's orphaned younger cousin Caroline Clement, who joined in her fantasy world game and would become her lifelong companion. The two lived a fairly reclusive life; their relationship was not discussed widely in the press. In 1931 they adopted two children whose parents were friends of Clement and de la Roche and who had died.[2]

Prior to her becoming famous, she lived for a period of five years in Sovereign House in Bronte, which has been designated a historical building by the Bronte Historical Society. Mazo's "Whiteoaks Chronicles" figures into the term "Whiteoaks" which usually refers to the Oakville-Bronte area.

Early writing

De la Roche had her first story published in 1902 in Munsey's Magazine but did not begin her writing career in earnest until after the death of her father. Her first two novels, Possession (1923) and Delight (1926), were romantic novels and earned her little in income or recognition.

Her third novel, Jalna, was submitted to the American magazine Atlantic Monthly, winning a $10,000 award. Its victory and subsequent publication in 1927 brought de la Roche fame and fortune at the age of 48.

Jalna series

Her books became best-sellers and she wrote 16 novels in the series known as the Jalna series or the Whiteoak Chronicles. The series tells the story of one hundred years of the Whiteoak family covering from 1854 to 1954. The novels were not written in sequential order, however, and each can be read as an independent story.

It is interesting to note the similarities and differences in the experiences of the Whiteoak family and de la Roche's. While the lives and successes of the Whiteoaks rise and fall, there remained for them the steadiness of the family manor, known as Jalna. De la Roche's family endured the illness of her mother, the perpetual job searches of her father, and the adoption of her orphaned cousin while being moved 17 times. Her family did work a farm for a few years for a wealthy man who owned the farm for a hobby. Several critics believe that Finch Whiteoak who majors in Finch's Fortune (1932) is a reflection of de la Roche herself. He was a somewhat tortured concert pianist with overtones of gayness.[3] The names of many of the characters were taken from gravestones in a Newmarket, Ontario cemetery.

The Jalna series has sold more than eleven million copies in 193 English and 92 foreign editions. In 1935, the film Jalna, based on the novel, was released by RKO Radio Pictures and, in 1972, a CBC television series was produced based on the series.

Death and legacy

Mazo de la Roche is buried near the grave of Stephen Leacock at St. George's Anglican Church, at Sibbald Point, near Sutton, Ontario.

December, 1927

The Benares Historic House of Clarkson, Ontario is believed to be the inspiration for Jalna and is now maintained by the Ontario Museum Association. A nearby park is named Whiteoaks in honour of the series.

Her house at 3590 Bayview Avenue in Toronto, Ontario, bought by The Zoroastrian Society of Ontario in 1975, currently (2007) serves as its community centre. It is listed as a City of Toronto Heritage Property.[4]

In the 1970s, a land developer in London, Ontario used the characters from de la Roche's Jalna series to name streets for a new subdivision named White Oaks. Streetnames used from the Jalna series include: Jalna Boulevard, Ernest Avenue, Renny Crescent, Finch Crescent, Nicholas Crescent, Alayne Crescent, Archer Crescent, Piers Crescent, Meg Drive.[5]

In 1990, a new French-immersion public school in de la Roche's birthplace of Newmarket, Ontario was named in her honour.

Responding to an enquiry on the pronunciation of her name, her secretary told The Literary Digest: "Her Christian name is pronounced may'zo, and Roche is pronounced rosh, to rhyme with Foch."[6]

Works

Published works

  • Explorers of the Dawn (collection of previously published sketches), Knopf, 1922.
  • Possession (novel), Macmillan Publishers, 1923, reprinted, C. Chivers, 1973.
  • Low Life: A Comedy in One Act (play; first produced as Low Life in Toronto, Ontario, at Trinity Memorial Hall, May 14, 1925), Macmillan, 1925.
  • Delight (novel), Macmillan, 1926, reprinted with introduction by Desmond Pacey, McClelland and Stewart, 1961.
  • Come True (play; first produced in Toronto at Trinity Memorial Hall, May 16, 1927), Macmillan, 1927.
  • Jalna series (in narrative order)
    • Building of Jalna, Little, Brown, 1944 ISBN 0-316-17996-5
    • Morning at Jalna, Little, Brown, 1960 ISBN 0-333-03933-5
    • Mary Wakefield, Little, Brown, 1949 ISBN 0-333-07652-4
    • Young Renny, Little, Brown, 1935 ISBN 0-333-01371-9
    • Whiteoak Heritage, Little, Brown, 1940 ISBN 0-333-05090-8
    • Whiteoak Brothers, Little, Brown, 1953 ISBN 0-333-08809-3
    • Jalna, Little, Brown, 1927 ISBN 0-316-18000-9
    • Whiteoaks of Jalna, Little, Brown, 1929; published as Whiteoaks, Macmillan, 1929, ISBN 0-316-18014-9
    • Finch's Fortune, Little, Brown, 1932 ISBN 0-333-09966-4
    • The Master of Jalna, Little, Brown, 1933 ISBN 0-316-18002-5
    • Whiteoak Harvest, Little, Brown, 1936 ISBN 0-333-07404-1
    • Wakefield's Course, Little, Brown, 1941 ISBN 0-316-18010-6
    • Return to Jalna, Little, Brown, 1946 ISBN 0-333-04842-3
    • Renny's Daughter, Little, Brown, 1951 ISBN 0-333-08561-2
    • Variable Winds at Jalna, Little, Brown, 1954 ISBN 0-333-02280-7
    • Centenary at Jalna, Little, Brown, 1958 ISBN 0-316-17997-3
  • The Return of the Emigrant (play), first produced in Toronto at Trinity Memorial Hall, March 12, 1928.
  • Low Life and Other Plays (contains Low Life, Come True, and The Return of the Emigrant), Little, Brown, 1929. ISBN 1-131-68067-7
  • Portrait of a Dog (novel), Little, Brown, 1930.
  • Lark Ascending (novel), Little, Brown, 1932.
  • The Thunder of the New Wings, Little, Brown, 1932.
  • Beside a Norman Tower, Little, Brown, 1934. ISBN 1-199-86589-3
  • (With Nancy Price) Whiteoaks: A Play (adapted from Whiteoaks of Jalna; first produced in London, England, at Little Theatre in the Adelphi, April 13, 1936; produced on Broadway, 1938), Macmillan, 1936. ISBN 0-333-06247-7
  • The Very Little House (novel), Little, Brown, 1937.
  • Growth of a Man (novel), Little, Brown, 1938.
  • The Sacred Bullock and Other Stories of Animals, Little, Brown, 1939, reprinted, Books for Libraries Press, 1969. ISBN 0-8369-3186-6
  • The Two Saplings (novel), Macmillan, 1942.
  • Quebec: Historic Seaport (non-fiction), Doubleday, 1944. ISBN 1-121-26423-9
  • Mistress of Jalna, first produced in Bromley, Kent, England, at New Theatre, November 12, 1951.
  • A Boy in the House, and Other Stories, Little, Brown, 1952.
  • The Song of Lambert (juvenile), Macmillan, 1955, Little Brown, 1956.
  • Ringing the Changes: An Autobiography, Little, Brown, 1957. ISBN 1-141-37942-2
  • Bill and Coo (juvenile), Macmillan, 1958, Little, Brown, 1959.
  • (Author of introduction) George F. Nelson, editor, Northern Lights: A New Collection of Distinguished Writing by Canadian Authors, Doubleday, 1960. OCLC 1395116, LCCN 60-9741.
  • Selected Stories of Mazo de la Roche, edited and introduced by Douglas Daymond, University of Ottawa Press, 1979. ISBN 2-7603-4340-5

Related works

  • Jalna 1935 film based on the novel. IMDb
  • The Whiteoaks of Jalna 1972 CBC TV series based on the Jalna series. IMDb

References

See also

External links


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