Mazo de la Roche – (pron. may’zo) was born on January 15, 1879, in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. She was the successful author of the prolific Jalna series of novels; one of the most popular of the era.
An only child, Mazo grew up on a hobby farm which belonged to her wealthy father. It was during these years she began to develop her fictional world of rural aristocracy that would later become Jalna. At the age of seven, her parents adopted an orphaned younger cousin on her father’s side of the family, Caroline Clement; who joined in Mazo’s fantasy world game and would become her lifelong companion. The two lived a fairly reclusive life; and their relationship was never discussed.
Mazo wrote her first short story at the age of nine. Her first two novels, Possession (1923) and Delight (1926), were romantic novels and earned her little in income or recognition. The following year, her third novel, Jalna, was submitted to the American magazine Atlantic Monthly, winning a $10,000 award at the age of 48.
The 16 novel Jalna series incorporated the Whiteoak Chronicles. The series chronicled 100 years of the Whiteoak family from 1854-1954. It has been said that there are some similarities and differences experienced by the Whiteoak family that are similar to the De la Roche family. Several critics believe that Finch Whiteoak, who majors in Finch’s Fortune (1932) is a reflection of Mazo, herself. Finch showed some overtones of gayness, and was depicted as a tortured concert pianist.
Mazo de la Roche died on July 12, 1961 and is buried in the cemetery at St. George’s Anglican Church, at Sibbald Point, near Sutton, Ontario. Some interesting facts about Mazo and the Jalna series include:
- The novels were not written in sequential order, so each can be read as an independent story.
- The names of many of the characters were taken from gravestones in a nearby cemetery in Newmarket.
- According to Wikipedia, The Jalna series has sold more than 11M copies in 193 English and 92 foreign editions.
- In 1935, the film Jalna, was released, based on the novel
- In 1972, CBC TVs produced a series based on the Jalna series.
- A National Film Board of Canada production; The Mystery of Mazo de la Roche, premiered in 2012 at the Festival International du Film sur l’art in Montreal, then and the Toronto Premiere of Hot Docs in April 2012.
The image here is from the cover of the paperback edition of Return to Jalna and the illustrator is unknown, unless anyone knows otherwise?