In 1927, Mazo de la Roche was an impoverished writer in Toronto when she won a $10,000 prize from the American magazine Atlantic Monthly for her novel Jalna. The book became an immediate bestseller. In 1929, the sequel Whiteoaks also went to the top of bestseller lists. Mazo went on to publish 16 novels in the popular series about a Canadian family named Whiteoak, living in a house called Jalna. Her success allowed her to travel the world and to live in a mansion near Windsor Castle. Mazo created unforgettable characters who come to life for her readers, but she was secretive about her own life and tried to escape the public attention her fame brought.
The Master of Jalnaby Mazo de la Roche
First published in 1933, The Master of Jalna is Renny Whiteoak, who owns the old house and property. After the death of Grandmother Adeline, Renny attempts to carry on the family tradition. He and his wife Alayne have a daughter named Adeline, who has inherited her namesake’s red hair, strong will, and fierce temper. While Alayne is preoccupied trying/i>
First published in 1933, The Master of Jalna is Renny Whiteoak, who owns the old house and property. After the death of Grandmother Adeline, Renny attempts to carry on the family tradition. He and his wife Alayne have a daughter named Adeline, who has inherited her namesake’s red hair, strong will, and fierce temper. While Alayne is preoccupied trying to tame this wild, red-headed child, Renny has a love affair with Claire, the widow of his best friend. The whole Whiteoak family is back at Jalna, and Renny looks after everyone, including Claire and her daughter. He faces a financial crisis and struggles to keep the estate intact. This is book 10 of 16 in The Whiteoak Chronicles. It is followed by Whiteoak Harvest.
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The Master of Jalna is the fourth by publication date, tenth by story chronology, of 16 novels spanning a hundred years from 1854 to 1954. Known as the Whiteoak Chronicles or the Jalna series, they told the saga of a Canadian family and Jalna, the family manor. The books are usually listed chronologically by story line rather than by date of publication but each can be read independently. I first read the whole series in my 20′s and then picked up half of them on a book trip my daughter Annie and I took in 2005 to the world’s biggest collection of bookstores, Hay-on-Wye in Wales. In this entry in the series, Renny Whiteoak, owner of Jalna, must take over where Grandmother Adeline left off, carrying on the family traditions. His daughter, Adeline, has inherited her namesake’s red hair and strong-willed ways and raising her is a challenge for Renny and his wife, Alayne. Along the way, Renny develops a love for Claire, his best friend’s widow, and must also deal with a financial crisis that threatens the family estate. Mazo de la Roche published Jalna, the first book in the series, in 1927 and achieved instant fame and fortune at the age of 48. Interestingly, the book first appeared in an American magazine, Atlantic Monthly, where it won a $10,000 award, rather than in a Canadian publication. She went on to write 15 more books in the series and all were bestsellers. A movie version of Jalna was released in the 1930′s and there was a later CBC television series. The house in Ontario believed to be the inspiration for Jalna is maintained by a museum association. Something about the Whiteoak Chronicles has stayed with me all these years and I was delighted to find so many of them on our trip. Re-reading them has not been a disappointment and I’m just as invested in this family’s saga as I was back then. I’m looking forward to tracking down the volumes I don’t have.