Mazo de la Roche

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Mazo de la Roche

Mazo de la Roche, December 18, 1927
Born(1879-01-15)January 15, 1879
Newmarket, Ontario
DiedJuly 12, 1961(1961-07-12) (aged 82)
Toronto, Ontario
 
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Mazo de la Roche

Mazo de la Roche, December 18, 1927
Born(1879-01-15)January 15, 1879
Newmarket, Ontario
DiedJuly 12, 1961(1961-07-12) (aged 82)
Toronto, Ontario

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.

Contents

Biography

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 fictional 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

Benares[4] in Clarkson, Ontario is believed to be the inspiration for Jalna and is now maintained by the Museums of Mississauga.[5] A nearby park is named Whiteoaks in honour of the series, as is a nearby elementary school. Streets in the area also bear names such as "Mazo Crescent," "Jalna Avenue," and "Whiteoaks Avenue."

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.[6]

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.[7]

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

Most recently, she was the subject of a Red Queen Productions and National Film Board of Canada co-production, The Mystery of Mazo de la Roche, which premiered on March 17, 2012 at the Festival international du film sur l'art in Montreal, then had its Toronto Premiere at Hot Docs April 29/12. The film is directed by Maya Gallus, produced by Justine Pimlott & Anita Lee, and combines archival material with dramatic reenactments featuring Severn Thompson as Mazo de la Roche.[8]

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."[9]

Works

Published works

Related works

See also

References

External links