CM . . .
. Volume XVIII Number 29. . . .March 30, 2012
Although he may never be aware of it Julian Fellowes, creator of the British television melodrama Downton Abbey (among other projects), has done a service to Canadian author Mazo de la Roche's "Whiteoaks of Jalna" series of novels. His romantic vision of the British class system, as represented in the lives of the 'upstairs/downstairs' inhabitants of the Downton Abbey household, will make it easier for Canadian readers to comprehend the lives of the Whiteoaks who live on the Jalna estate and in Roche's imagination. Roche's Southern Ontario Gothic romance has the same intertwining story lines regarding inheritance concerns, the effect of the economy and wars on family fortunes, illicit/puritanical behaviour and concern with social standing and keeping up appearances as Fellowes' story lines in Downton Abbey.
Characters in Downton Abbey, such as the Dowage Countess, often make intended and unintended humorous comments stemming from their class constrained lives. Roche's novel Morning at Jalna has moments of levity (p. 17):
As in the Downton Abbey series, Roche's novel provides opportunities to learn about attitudes held by various classes in Canada's past. It is also an opportunity to learn about the language, manners, dress, customs, and concerns of a bygone era. Roche's use of metaphor would be helpful to students to understand how language and environment can be used to mirror both characters' lives and story developments (pp. 94-95):
When reading Roche's novel, the reader must take into account the era in which Roche wrote each particular book in her series as well as the era that she wrote about. In that context, as well as reading the book through the filter of the conventions of Downton Abbey's melodrama and Southern Ontario Gothic literature, the book Morning at Jalna might be enjoyed and might prove instructive to readers.
Located in Toronto, ON, J. Lynn Fraser is an author and freelance writer. She writes for national and international magazines, non-profits, and corporations.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.