Although the occasion was no doubt distressing, it also proved liberating.
For the first time, Givner argues, de la Roche was free to live exactly as she pleased: alone with Clement, beyond the glare of parental eyes.
Mazo de la Roche was among the bestselling Canadian authors of the first half of the 20th century, surpassing the popularity of Lucy Maud Montgomery and equalling that of Stephen Leacock.
The novel that launched her to fame, (Little, Brown, 1927), and the 15 sequels documenting the experiences of the upper-class Whiteoaks family in Upper Canada from 1854 to 1954 sold millions of copies and was, at least initially, hailed by critics, inviting comparison to .
“That night she wept after we had gone to bed,” the author recalled in her autobiography, “but I turned my back.” De la Roche had begun writing in the early years of the 20th century, selling her first short stories to Canadian and American magazines in 1902.
She suffered a mental breakdown in February 1903, with a depression that persisted for several years, caused insomnia, and prevented her from writing.
“As the train drew in it was easy to distinguish her in the crowd on the platform, slim and straight in her black and white dress, a wing of bright hair against her little black hat. In her autobiography, de la Roche states that she enjoyed attracting men but had an aversion to being touched by them, and viewed “sex as rather silly.” By her own admission, she regarded herself as rather masculine.
Clement, on the other hand, provided the template description for the desirable women who populated de la Roche’s fictions: blue eyes, diminutive build, thin hands, and silken hair.Clement, for her part, later admitted feeling “antagonism and fear” when, in 1912, de la Roche had suitor of her own named Pierre Fritz Mansbendel.Givner asserts that de la Roche enjoyed Mansbendel’s male camaraderie as one of the few men who compared favorably with her father, but that the relationship was never romantic in nature.During the summers, de la Roche and her mother would reside near Lake Simcoe, while Clement lived in a boarding house so the family could afford the holiday accommodations and continued working.Although it seems to have gone unacknowledged at the time, de la Roche later admitted a degree of selfishness on her part during these years: “I took it for granted that she should be the principal pillar of our little household.” When de la Roche’s mother died of pneumonia in the winter of 1920, she was the women’s last close relation to pass.While de la Roche’s writing contributed irregularly to the household income, it fell to Clement to act as breadwinner for the family.