The Canadian Reading Challenge: Ontario

I’m getting together with my book group tonight. We always enjoy each others’ company and a good pot luck meal. I haven’t taken anything I made from scratch for a while, so I’m looking forward to bringing Artichoke Quinoa Salad.

As mentioned in my last post, we’ll be discussing The Freedom Writers Diary. I enjoyed the book but I actually found the movie more compelling. In the book, the teens aren’t referred to by name; instead, the diary entries are labelled with diary numbers and with neither names nor faces, it was difficult to connect with individuals. I will be interested to find out what my friends, who have not seen the movie, thought.

Throughout the book, there are many references to Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Sarajevo. I’d read the diary of Anne Frank when I was young, but wasn’t familiar with that of Zlata Filipovic. so I requested a copy from the library. (I was probably inspired by one of my fellow book club members who often reads supplementary material such as author biographies.)

While searching my bookcase for something I could read quickly while waiting for Zlata’s Diary to come in, I decided to read The Secret of Jalna. As mentioned in The Library of Mom, I read and enjoyed the Jalna books as a teenager, and when my mother passed away in 1996, I added her copy of the series to my own library, along with The Secret of Jalna. I’ve only re-read three of the novels since then, and I’m not sure why, but I’ve never been motivated to read The Secret of Jalna.

As it turns out, I wasn’t missing much. The book is a badly thrown together collection of facts about author Mazo de la Roche, the Jalna chronicles, and the TV show based upon them. The author seemed to assume that you had already read Mazo de la Roche of Jalna, which he’d written a few years earlier. He would mention things like “the house on Dunn Street” as though the reader should know what he was referring to. On the other hand, he felt it necessary to explain that July 1 is Canada’s national holiday. It was quite clear that it was an attempt to capitalize on CBC’s TV series, The Whiteoaks of Jalna, which came out the year the book was published.

I vaguely remember my mother mentioning a TV show, but since it came out around the same time I was reading the books, I couldn’t figure out why I’d never seen it. Hambleton’s book piqued my curiosity, so I looked into it and found out that it totally bombed. Maybe I did see it, and blocked it from memory!

Polite company does not speak of the series.

Brian Busby, The Dusty Bookcase

Since Mazo de la Roche was born and spent most of her life in Ontario, Ronald Hambleton lived in Toronto for many years, and the fictional Jalna was also located in Ontario, that’s one more province covered for my Canadian Reading Challenge!

 

I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that the Jalna books were not written in chronological order, and Hambleton’s book helped to clarify how that came about and how de la Roche accomplished it.

I also learned that de la Roche wrote about people and places that she knew, convincing me that Benares House in Mississauga really was the inspiration for Jalna. My mom had gone to see it one time and considered it too small to have housed the large Whiteoaks family, so I never had any interest, but now I just might check it out.

What’s your relationship with the Jalna books? Have you read any of them? All? Did you read them in chronological sequence, the order they were written, or randomly? Or is the first you’ve heard of them?

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