Whiteoaks of Jalna

by Mazo de la Roche. Little, Brown & Co. 1929. (An Atlantic Monthly Press Publication.) 8vo. 423 pp. $2.50.
Miss DE LA ROCHE has done that very rare thing — hit the bull’s eye twice in succession. People who delighted in Jalna — and certainly there were very many who did — need not fear to find any slowing up of interest in this second chronicle of the Whiteoaks. With her brilliant characterization, her passion for life, for beauty and sincerity, and perhaps most of all her unfailing humor, giving balance to the whole, she has set this unique family before us once more with an amazing sureness of touch.
Miss de la Roche knows her Whiteoaks. She has only to look at them again to see them clearly; and more, to make the reader see them also. Personally I am sure that they live in Canada. This is not to say that she has fallen into the error of photographing real people, against which Stevenson warned J. M. Barrie long since, but that she has so firmly and convincingly woven the strands of their varied personalities upon the warp and woof of imagination that she has fetched them into being, and made them more alive — more, as one might say, true to life — than many perhaps falsely so-called real people whom one encounters blowing aimlessly about the world. For me this second book is not a sequel. It is rather as though I had thought suddenly, ‘Oh, I wish I could hear something of the Whiteoaks! What’s going on at Jalna, I wonder?’ — and then, thank goodness! Miss de la Roche pays them a second visit and tells me all about them, to my great interest and delight.
Perhaps what I enjoy most about these astonishing Whiteoaks is their constant unexpectedness; I never know exactly how they are going to jump. So brutal, and yet at times so tender! In scene after scene this happens. Look, for instance, at the Grandmother — that, as one might suppose, completely selfish old hag (her home life so unlike that of one’s own dear grandmother!) who yet at the last makes not only a sporting finish, which one would have expected of her, but, in her own peculiar way, almost a sacrificial one. And the way she left her money was a complete surprise to me!
Well, one parts from these living people with regret. I know I shall wonder often what they are doing, and long again for news from Jalna. Can Miss de la Roche do it again? I don’t know. I am half afraid to have her try, and yet I am as greedy as the old Grandmother herself; like her, I want ‘More! More!’ Especially I should like more about Finch.