Douglas M. Daymond
Although the success of the Jalna novels has tended to overshadow [de la Roche's] earlier works, they represent some of [her] most interesting writing and suggest the principal characteristics of all her work and the nature of her contribution to the development of the Canadian novel. At a time when Canadian fiction was dominated by historical novels and sentimental stories of village and rural life, de la Roche challenged the code of conduct associated with Victorian morality and dramatized the tension between instinct and convention. Possession, her first and in many respects one of her most successful novels, reveals her efforts to turn away from the typical local colour story and to temper the essentially pleasant world of escape with realism.
Possession is a mixture of elements of the romance and the novel. On the one hand, the lively and convincing presentation of highly individualistic characters, the immediacy with which domestic action is dramatized, the absence of a stable conclusion, and the realistic scenes depicting the way of life at Grimstone, contribute to the feeling of realism. On the other hand, the episodic nature of events, the sudden shifting from melodramatic confrontations to comic or pastoral scenes, the artificiality of some of the dialogue, and the emphasis on individual freedom and instinct, suggest the extent to which elements identified with the romance are incorporated in the novel. The result is romantic realism or … a "romance novel" in which the strict realism of the naturalist is blended with...
(The entire section is 643 words.)