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). 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 (born April 4, 1878), who joined in her fantasy world game and would become her lifelong companion. “Because they were born only nine months apart and raised together from childhood, their relationship would have been symbiotic. De la Roche found in Clement not only subject matter but also reason to live.” –Heather Kirk. 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.
Mazo de la Roche was the author of the Jalna novels, one of the most popular series of books of her time. At the age of seven, Mazo de la Roche's parents adopted her 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.
Caroline Clement & Mazo de la Roche are buried one near each other in the St. George’s churchyard at Sibbald Point Provincial Park near Sutton West, Ontario.
Mazo de la Roche and her partner Caroline Clement play croquet. In gas masks. 1939
Cover Art for Jalna by Elaine Gignilliat
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.
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.
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. 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.
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 Museums of Mississauga. 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.
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.
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 rhyme with Foch."
Mazo de la Roche's Books on Amazon: Mazo de la Roche
Burial: Saint George the Martyr Churchyard, Sutton, Ontario, Canada
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=elimyrevandra-20
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=elimyrevandra-20
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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