Title: The Chaperone
Author: Laura Moriarty
384 pages, Published by Riverhead
Buy The Book: Amazon
A captivating novel about the woman who chaperoned an irreverent Louise Brooks to New York City in 1922, and the summer that would change them both.
Only a few years before becoming a famous actress and an icon for her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita to make it big in New York. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone who is neither mother nor friend. Cora Carlisle is a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip. She has no idea what she’s in for: Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous blunt bangs and black bob, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will change their lives forever.
For Cora, New York holds the promise of discovery that might prove an answer to the question at the center of her being, and even as she does her best to watch over Louise in a strange and bustling city, she embarks on her own mission. And while what she finds isn’t what she anticipated, it liberates her in a way she could not have imagined. Over the course of the summer, Cora’s eyes are opened to the promise of the twentieth century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive. (Summary provided by Riverhead.)
When I started the The Chaperone, I assumed the main focus of the novel would be on Louise Brooks. This was a little dense on my part as the book is titled The Chaperone, so obviously it’s going to be about the chaperone.
Duh Mandy. The silent film era star Louise Brooks does play a prominent role in the novel as seen through the eyes of Cora her chaperone for a 1922 summer visit to New York City. I was captivated by Cora’s story and the parallels between Cora and her young ward on the trip to New York.
Moriarty’s narrative slips back and forth seamlessly between Cora’s present and past. Cora’s story like Louise’s own back story is heartbreaking at times and bittersweet at other times. There were so many passages throughout the book that resonated with me including the following passage regarding Cora reading The Age Of Innocence by Edith Wharton before heading to New York with Louise:
It was also set in New York City, and though it was set in the previous century, Cora thought it would be interesting to read about the very place that they were headed, to picture long dead characters walking the very streets that would soon be under her feet.
I read this and felt one of those little sparks that you feel when you read a passage that you can relate to so vividly. I’m reading a book about long gone people from the last century that takes place mostly in New York City before I head to New York for BEA (Book Expo America) next month. It gave me chills to read that sentence where a character in a book from the previous century is thinking the same thing I am. On the same page in the book Louise Brooks makes the statement to Cora that historical fiction bores her. I thought that was a funny reference to the genre I was thoroughly enjoying reading at the moment.
Moriarty has a way of adding the most poignant observations at the most unexpected times. During an exchange with Louise’s dance instructor in New York. The instructor says to Cora in reference to Louise’s relationship with her mother, Myra,” Show me a mother with such thwarted ambition, and I’ll show you a daughter born for success.” That one sentence perfectly summed up the root of Louise’s determination to become a star.
Throughout The Chaperone Cora struggles with accepting that the times were indeed changing. From hemlines to racial relations to contraception, important societal issues of the time period appear frequently throughout The Chaperone. Including one passage where Cora notes that women were not allowed to testify before voting began for a bill concerning making contraception information available. It is a startling reminder that women are still facing some of the issues that Cora dealt with in the 20’s and 30’s.
The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty is the kind of novel that makes me want to underline passages and write notes in the margin to look at later. It is the type of novel that made me sigh through my tears as I finished it. A sigh both of contentment and of longing. It is the type of book I wish could have gone on and on. It is perfection. Or at least it’s my idea of what the perfect novel should be.
Tuesday, May 1st: Sophisticated Dorkiness
Wednesday, May 2nd: bookchickdi
Thursday, May 3rd: From Left to Write
Friday, May 4th: Rayment’s Readings, Rants and Ramblings
Monday, May 7th: Frenzy of Noise
Thursday, May 10th: Bewitched Bookworms
Monday, May 14th: Fire and Ice
Tuesday, May 15th: Book Journey
Wednesday, May 16th: Babbling About Books and More
Thursday, May 17th: Workaday Reads
Friday, May 18th: An Avid Reader’s Musings
Saturday, May 19th: Midnight Book Girl
Monday, May 21st: Never Too Fond of Books
Tuesday, May 22nd: The Compulsive Reader
Wednesday, May 23rd: Kritters Ramblings
Thursday, May 24th: Literate Housewife
Friday, May 25th: Paperspines
Monday, May 28th: Sassymonkey Reads
Tuesday, May 29th: Picky Girl
Wednesday, May 30th: Chaos is a Friend of Mine
Thursday, May 31st: An Unconventional Librarian
Friday, June 1st: The 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness
Date TBD: Verb Vixen
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