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Mazo de la Roche
(January 15, 1879 - July 12, 1961) Canada

Mazo de la Roche



Born in Toronto, she was an only, and a lonely, child. She did not begin her professional writing career until relatively late in life. Her first novel, Possession, was published in 1923, when she was forty-four years old. Just four years later she received the Atlantic-Little, Brown award for Jalna, the first in the famous Jalna series, with which she is identified.

During the 1930's, Mazo was a very popular writer. Times and interests change, and she was, in a sense, a World War II casualty. Except for a steadily dwindling coterie of fans, few paid any attention to her during the last twenty years of her life.

The real history of Mazo De La Roche began with her seventh year when se first met her cousin, Caroline Clement. Caroline was also an only child, and worse, she was orphaned. Mazo describes her first meeting with Caroline in her autobiography, Ringing the Changes, as being the most important day in her life. From that time on, these two were to live together until the death of Mazo.

During the years that Mazo was struggling to get started as a writer, Caroline held down a clerical job. After the award for Jalna, Caroline was able to quit work and simply act as housekeeper (a function she had always performed in addition to her working full time). From 1928 to 1938, Mazo and Caroline lived outside of Canada for the most part, primarily in England.

In 1930, while on a trip, they learned of the death of friends which left a little girl, two-and-a-half years old, and a thirteen-month-old baby boy orphaned. Mazo was fifty-one years old, much past the age usually associated with adoption. Caroline was just slightly younger. Mazo raised heaven and earth doing it, but with the aid of one of her publishers, she put up the necessary arguments as to character and means and got the two children.

Mazo and CarolineWith the exception of her popular success during the 1930's, little of excitement happened to Mazo De La Roche. She and Caroline lived quietly, had few friends, and certainly no close friends. They raised their two children (both of their children are married and have families of their own now).

Mazo was shy, and were quiet. Her one outward expression of temper was to refuse to go anywhere when Caroline was not also automatically invited.

Her popular novel, Jalna (1927), was followed by a series depicting the history, through 150 years, of the vigorous Whiteoak family who lived at "Jalna". The series includes 16 novels; among them are Whiteoaks (1929), Finch's Fortune (1931), Young Renny (1935), Whiteoak Harvest (1936), Growth of a Man (1938), The Building of Jalna (1944), and Mary Wakefield (1949). Her dramatization of Whiteoaks was staged in London and New York. De la Roche also wrote plays, children's books, a history of Quebec, and an autobiography, Ringing the Changes (1957).


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