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The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
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The Chaperone (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Laura Moriarty

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1,2771246,168 (3.93)76
Member:evymac
Title:The Chaperone
Authors:Laura Moriarty
Info:Riverhead Hardcover (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover, 384 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:***
Tags:family, relationships, lgbt, New England, usa, 1920s, orphans, New York, adoption, historical fiction

Work details

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty (2012)

  1. 11
    Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates (becksdakex)
    becksdakex: Marilyn Monroe, old Hollywood and her life.
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Cora Carlisle is the chaperone for Louise Brooks as they travel to NY so Louise can attend a prestigious dance school for five weeks. Cora has her own reasons for agreeing to be the chaperone and as the story develops we learn why. Louise is a handful to say the least and is always stirring up trouble. We learn about the past of both women and let's just say some things happen that you will not see coming. My book club really enjoyed the book! ( )
  amanaceerdh | Apr 19, 2017 |
Really more of a 4.5.

As the title clearly states, this is a book not about Louise Brooks, but about Cora, the chaperone who accompanied 15 year old Louise Brooks, the future silent film star, to NYC in the summer of 1922. The real Louise Brooks did go to NYC in the summer of 1922 to study dance, and she did take an unnamed chaperone with her, but this story of Cora's is fictional and is told to highlight the dramatic changes seen over nearly a century of living.

Cora is an upstanding woman in her mid-thirties, living in Kansas and conforming to a rather rigid set of beliefs and ways of behaving. Meanwhile, Louise is a wild and unruly teenager, fully embracing a more modern take on the world. This creates inevitable conflict between Cora and Louise.

In a series of flashbacks we learn about Cora's life as a child living in an orphanage, her trip on an orphan train, and her adoption by a lovely midwestern couple. There is tragedy but Cora makes a 'good" marriage to a young lawyer, and settles into her life as an upstanding member of society, living within the confines of the social mores of the time. However, we are treated to a set of revelations that not all is as it seems in Cora's life and it rocks her world.

Cora has motives for wanting to go to NYC, and her experiences relating to those reasons sets Cora off on a journey of self-discovery that challenges many of her previously held beliefs. Meanwhile, Cora tries to reign in the impulsive and headstrong Louise, but this is more of a side story than the main event. The 1920s was a decade of changes in society, especially for women, and we are along for the ride as we follow Cora's summer of discovery and her life afterwards. There are some unexpected and surprising twists to the story as we take a trip through the 20th century with Cora.

I do have a few minor complaints. The pacing is perhaps a bit uneven, with the epilogue (of sorts) quickly covering a large portion of Cora's life. However, I understand why the author felt it was necessary. And perhaps Cora's enlightenment may be a little too quick and drastic for a woman living in the Midwest in 1922, but she has her reasons. In the end, it's a very enjoyable book that I highly recommend. It would make a great book club read.

I listened to the audio book, narrated by Elizabeth McGovern, who coincidentally played the role of Cora in Downton Abbey. She was perfect and I saw her in my mind's eye as Cora as I listened to the book. It definitely added to my enjoyment of the book. ( )
  janb37 | Feb 13, 2017 |
The book was interesting, but a bit sad. I was a bit surprised at how much of the book was just told. Large chunks of time passed after Cora spent the summer as Louise's chaperone, and we didn't see/feel Cora's growth after that. Although the story revolves around the two months in New York (as the name implies), it's actually a story of Cora's life. We learn about her being on the orphan train, growing up quickly when her adoptive parents die, then a couple of months in New York that should've been pivotal for her. They were - but I wanted to FEEL what happened to her after New York and I felt like that was a bit glossed over. It seemed as though we were simply fed the facts, when in actuality the situation was extremely controversial and would've been absolutely heart-wrenching and full of fear. This was a good book, but was a little too "literary" for me. ( )
  LLRobinett | Jan 29, 2017 |
This story takes place over a period of time starting in the early 1920's. The main character, Cora, is a 36 year old wife and mother of twins who are college age. She lives in Wichita, with her husband, Allen, who is a wealthy lawyer. The story contrasts the cultural changes taking place across the nation, with the strict,"moral" judgemental mindset of the times. Hemlines were rising, corsets were becoming passe, and women were cutting their hair and socializing with young men without an adult near by. Cora goes on a personal adventure when she accepts a requests from the mother of a beautiful young 17 year old woman, Louise, who has been chosen for tryouts to a prestigious dance school in New York City. Cora decided to take the job but she will need to be gone for over a month and she had never been so far from home. Throughout the story, lies and secrets seem to be part of everyone's lives, covered over with a blanket of proper etiquette and social rules. There are several parallel plot lines that are all intriguing making the reader wanting to find out the conclusion to all of them. The end of the story starts to drag and I think it should have stopped sooner. This is a story that stresses the importance of true relationships and pokes the reader into valuing people in our lives and not to judgeing anyone by appearances. ( )
  gaillamontagne | Jan 6, 2017 |
This book is perfect for summer -- light but not too lightweight -- an ideal beach read. I read it quickly and thoroughly enjoyed it, although Cora was Mary-Sued a bit toward the end. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 130 (next | show all)

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Laura Moriartyprimary authorall editionscalculated
McGovern, ElizabethNarratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
When a lovely woman stoops to folly, she can always find someone to stoop with her but not always someone to lift her up again to the level where she belongs. - "Mr. Grundy", For Atlantic Monthly 1920

It excited him, too, that many men had already loved Daisy-it increased her value in his eyes. - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 1925

There is not Garbo! There is no Dietrich! There is only Louise Brooks! - Henri Langlois, 1955
Dedication
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The first time Cora heard the name Louise Brooks, she was parked outside the Wichita Library in a Model-T Ford, waiting for the rain to stop.
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Book description
Only a few years before becoming a famous actress, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Witchita to make it big in NY. 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 store for: Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous black bob and bangs, is known for her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spent together will change their lives forever. For Cora, NY holds the promise of self-discovery, and even as she does her best to watch Louise in a strange and bustling city, she embarks on her own mission. 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. (ARC)
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"A novel about the friendship between an adolescent, pre-movie-star Louise Brooks, and the 36-year-old woman who chaperones her to New York City for a summer, in 1922, and how it changes both their lives"--

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