Jalna Is a Sordid Bore

Mazo de la Roche wrote five novels about the Whiteoak family before writing Jalna, proving that producing a novel as boring as Jalna takes practice.

Jalna is the Whiteoak family estate in Ontario, Canada, where in 1923 Adeline Court Whiteoak waits for her 100th birthday surrounded by her family. The Whiteoaks fancy themselves aristocrats, but they’re really a bunch of slobs.

Think of Cold Comfort Farm, and you’ve got the picture.

Grandson Renny,  37, runs the farm and the family. He’s rude, coarse, sentimental, fond of pigs and horses, and according to de la Roche, irresistible to women.

Two of Renny’s nephews marry. Poet Eden brings home his New York publisher’s reader, Alayne, and farmer Piers brings home the neighbor’s bastard daughter, Pheasant.

Alayne takes up with Renny.

Pheasant takes up with Eden.

Renny’s sister Meg marries Pheasant’s father.

All the Whiteoaks abuse each other at the top of their lungs.

Grandmother has her hundredth birthday and the novel is over. Not a minute too soon for my taste.

Jalna reads as if it were written by someone whose day job is writing Cliff Notes. If there ever was any life in these characters or sense in the plot, it’s not here now.

by Mazo de la Roche
Little, Brown,  1927
347 pages
#5  1927   #9 1928
Grade: D+
© 2007 Linda Gorton Aragoni