CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 9. . . .October 30, 2009.
The Building of Jalna.
Mazo de la Roche.
Toronto, ON: Dundurn Press, 1944/2009.
342 pp., pbk., $24.99.
Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by J. Lynn Fraser.
Although written in 1944, The Building of Jalna fills in the background information about how the Whiteoaks came to Jalna, i.e., Canada in 1853, and the personalities of the original family members that have been immortalized in the author’s series on the family.
While the text’s prose is florid, it is possible to glean interesting facts about early Canadian society from the story. As the text was written in 1944, the author’s references to some cultures are not politically correct as found in, for example, a reference to a character’s “English reliability” and another’s “Celtic suppleness” (p. 12).
The characters are dramatic and romantic, and for this reason the book can be read as a study of Canadian romance writing and could be compared to the diversity of romance writing found today. This does narrow the audience for this book.
However, as in any book about family relationships, there is conflict. The author does bring in a variety of family dynamics and tense situations that make the book a fast paced read. The author’s use of language and the symbolism in the book, for example (p. 97), are easy to understand and provide good examples for emerging writers to follow:
Now the iceberg was farther off. It had lost its terror and gained in beauty, for the sun, just showing a rim above the horizon, had touched a thousand facets into fire. It rose out of the green waves in majesty, ethereal as a dream, unsubstantial as hope. Yet deep down in the sea its icy foundation was greater than its visible part.
The author’s use of dialect and dialogue to create characters as well as varying points of view in the book would also be helpful to young writers.
Many aspects of the book seem quite out of touch with today’s society. But, as an example of a classic piece of Canadian literature, the book has enough drama, tension, and adventure to keep many young readers interested.
J. Lynn Fraser, a freelance writer whose articles appear in international magazines and newspapers, resides in Toronto, ON.
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