The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

Monday, June 11, 2012

Title: The Chaperone
Author: Laura Moriarty
Pages: 367
Genre: Fiction, Historical (1920's-1940's)
Publisher: Riverhead Books (Penguin)
Pub. Date: June 5, 2012

I didn't know who she was prior to reading The Chaperone, but Louise Brooks was a silent film actress in the 1920's and 1930's known for her difficult attitude and sexually liberated personality. In the early 1920's before she was famous, she took a trip to New York City from Wichita, Kansas to study with the Denishawn dance company. Her parents were unable to accompany her, so a woman in the community was requested to chaperone her trip to NYC. Moriarty's The Chaperone imagines this trip, focusing on the relationship between Louise and the chaperone but more so on how this trip ultimately changes the life of this chaperone.

Although the trip and chaperone component were true, as well as the facets related to Louise herself, the actual chaperone in this book was a fictional character. I'm not sure how much else of her story is fact or fiction.

So, Cora Carlisle is a the woman who volunteers to accompany Louise Brooks to NYC. Her two boys have gone to work on a farm for the summer before college, and she has her own reasons for wanting to go to the city. Poor Cora has no idea what's in store for her dealing with a 15-year-old, rebellious, Louise! But she manages, not without shock at Louise's escapades, and fulfills her own reason for visiting the city. After she drops Cora off at the dance school each day, she goes off into the city to search for the answer to who she is, not necessarily finding the answer she wants but learning so much about herself and her own happiness.

One of the focuses of this novel as told through the experiences of Cora Carlisle is that of all the social change that was happening during this era. Cora is a fairly traditional woman and has trouble at first opening her eyes to the new ways of thinking, what with all the new feminist values (including those risque fashions) and prohibition; not to mention the social events from when Cora was a child including the orphan trains. Through Cora and Louise, the various points of these social arguments are presented. But through Cora's mission to learn more about herself and her reflections on her experiences with Louise, she begins to see things differently. And even though this book takes place in the early 1900's, it's relevant to today in many ways, as we continue to experience social changes and controversies. (There were a lot of issues in here that would lead to great discussion and might be good for a book club.)

I'll admit, Louise's character drove me nuts. I can't say that I liked her. I adored Cora, though, and I loved seeing the growth she made throughout the book. She's dealt with some difficult things in her life, too, and seeing the resolution to all of this was sweet as well.

I finished this book the same day I started it. It's definitely one of my favorites of the year so far!

And a total side note, I found this slightly altered cover online and love it. I think it might be the UK cover?  I really like how they incorporated the NYC skyline.


Mary (Bookfan) said...

One of your favorite of the year? I'm in! I think I'll listen to the audio though. Glad you enjoyed it so much!

Anita said...

I have this on my Audiobook list for,summer, can't wait!!

Jenna said...

This one has been popping up on a lot of favorites lists this year so I can't wait to get my hands on it! I wasn't aware that it was based on true events, but that makes it even more intriguing to me.

Meg @ A Bookish Affair said...

I've heard really, really good things about this book. I'm looking forward to reading it. Glad you liked it!

Ti said...

I read one other book by this author and thought it to be just...okay. So I haven't snapped this one up yet, but so many readers have said good things about it.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I have requested this one as an audio for review, so I am dancing around anxiously waiting for it to show up! Love the time period, love the premise. This is like the 12th review I've seen that has glowed over the book...I'm pretty jacked about it.

Meg @ write meg! said...

I'm so anxious to read this one -- really need to move it to the top of my TBR stack! I love the time period, the setting -- everything. So glad to hear it's great!

Andrea @ Cozy Up said...

Wow, I've never heard of this one. One of your favourites of the year eh? Definitely need to check it out, I'm a sucker for historical fiction novels and haven't really read any that deal with this time period. You have got me interested, great review!

nomadreader said...

I'm really looking forward to reading this one!

Mrs Q Book Addict said...

I finished this one yesterday and I loved it! It was so much better than I expected.

Stephanie Ward said...

After seeing you post this on Goodreads, I added it to my TBR list. Thanks for the great review.


Marie said...

how fun! i'm glad you enjoyed this so much! it encourages me to pick it up.

Booksnyc said...

everyone seems to be raving about this one - I have to put it on my TBR!

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