Master of Jalna makes miserable reading

Renny Whiteoak inherited Jalna and responsibility for the family when his grandmother died in 1927. Right up until her death at age 102, family stayed on the farm and under her thumb.

Renny would like to be a dictator like his grandmother. He’s got the temperament for it, and no morals to prevent it. But the 1930s offer restless family members more opportunities for escape than his grandmother’s day held. And the world doesn’t seem to share Renny’s belief that Jalna is sovereign territory.

Renny’s half-brother, Eden, (who also happens to be Renny’s wife’s first husband) comes home to die.

Renny’s two uncles go into a decline when Eden dies.

Rennys brother-in-law is selling off lots in adjacent property to city people.

And Renny is broke. He won’t pay his bills, but he’ll lie and cheat to get money to keep Jalna intact and all the family living out their sordid lives under Jalna’s roof.

If Mazo de la Roche told the story through one character’s perspective, the novel might be worth reading. However, the ever-shifting point of view gives only a recital of miseries.

Most miserable of all are readers who pick up this highly overrated novel.

The Master of Jalna
by Mazo de la Roche
Little, Brown, 1943
377 pages
1933 #7
My grade D+

 

© 2013 Linda Gorton Aragoni

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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