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. Template:Infobox Biography


Early life

Mazo de la Roche was the only child of William Roche, a salesman, and Alberta (Lundy) Roche. 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.

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. 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.

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 Whiteoaks 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 from Finch's Fortune (1932) is a reflection of de la Roche herself. 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.

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 is designated as a City of Toronto Heritage Property.

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.[1]

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 rime with Foch." (Charles Earle Funk, What's the Name, Please?, Funk & Wagnalls, 1936.)


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)
  • 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


See also

Lorne Pierce Medal

External links

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