Biography

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 300

Sixteen of the twenty-three novels by Mazo de la Roche (duh luh RAWSH) describe life at Jalna, a fictional estate in Canada where an isolated and self-contained family lives in an old tradition with old values. Her novels have maintained a steady and loyal public for whom her self-contained world has come to represent a valuable and important island in the midst of the modern world; she is also credited with helping to move Canadian literature away from sentimentality and toward realism.{$S[A]Roche, Mazo de la;De la Roche, Mazo}

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De la Roche first reached a wide public in 1927 when Jalna won a $10,000 prize given by The Atlantic Monthly. With accuracy, grace, and introspective insight, she first depicted the family and the world which were to serve as the basis for much of her future work. Other typical novels dealing with Jalna are Whiteoaks of Jalna, Finch’s Fortune, Young Renny, Whiteoak Harvest, Growth of a Man, The Building of Jalna, and Mary Wakefield—the last showing the impingement of the outside world, in the form of a governess, on people and events at Jalna. The popularity of de la Roche’s work can be demonstrated by the fact that a dramatized version of Whiteoaks of Jalna was highly successful in New York and ran for two years in London.

Born near Toronto and living in rural Ontario, de la Roche preferred the same quiet isolation that characterizes Jalna. Although she also lived in England and in Sicily with her cousin and their two adopted children, Esme and Renée, she managed to maintain in her work a consistent Canadian flavor and self-sufficiency. In de la Roche’s novels, her family may have its turbulent and dramatic moments, but the values of family, propriety, and independence remain supreme.

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