One of the best audio books I've heard in a long, long while. The story line is great, and the narrator is very good. This is more a story about Cora than about Louise, and as we go through life with Cora, we also catch a glimpse of some of the major historical events of the 20th century. I would definitely recommend this book!
Addicted to Audible!
I was not expecting much of what happened in this book. The character development was one of the best I have read in a long time.The details of the era were fascinating and I enjoyed the twists and turns in the plot. The only negative was that I think the author wanted to wrap everything up perfectly at the end, some things could have been left to the imagination. All in all it was entertaining, had a great message and was well written. I liked Elizabeth McGoverns narration as I think it was accurate for the era and for a Kansas matron. I would highly recommend using your credits on this one!
The first half of the story was excellent. The author painted a word picture of life in the United States in the first half of the 20th century. I felt instant sympathy for the protagonist and for her young charge who was smart, beautiful, damaged and completely undisciplined. For movie buffs, even this fictional glimpse of a reigning beauty queen is a treat. My admiration for Cora was based as much on her ability to learn and change as well as her pragmatic approach to life. I might add here that the narrator helped me to know both characters. Elizabeth McGovern knows her craft.
The second half of the book was a complete disappointment. I felt the end of the story was contrived and not satisfactory at all. Actually I half listened until the end. I wished for better for the plucky woman who headed off to find her roots. Even as a fictional character she deserved a more honest life.
In 1922, Cora Carlisle is a 36-year-old Wichita housewife with an idyllic life: handsome lawyer husband, a beautiful home, twin boys about to leave the nest, good friends who join her in performing good works for the community. What could trouble a woman in her position, other than the corset that only fast women are abandoning?
Cora has a secret--or, actually, two secrets. The first is that when she was six years old, she was sent out from a New York Catholic charity home on an orphan train, which took orphaned children to stops along the line in the Midwest, to be displayed like livestock to prospective new families. Laura was one of the lucky ones, taken in by a loving farming couple from a rural area not far from Wichita. When she became engaged, her prospective in-laws counseled her that it might be best to keep her orphan background a secret. That's the way things were in 1922.
Cora's second secret is something you'll have to read for yourself.
Laura jumps at the chance to act as chaperone to 15-year-old Louise Brooks when Louise is in New York City for the summer to go to dance school. Brooks, you may know, is a real-life character who came to epitomize the Jazz Age. The actress with the perfect, mysteriously unsmiling face and gleaming cap of jet-black hair was a Hollywood bad girl who could have given any of today's models a run for their money. At 15, author Moriarty's conception of Louise was every bit as unconventional and rebellious, challenging every piece of homespun advice and moral counsel Cora tries to give her. Louise knows Cora won't follow through on her threat to haul Louise straight back to Wichita. She just doesn't know why. While Louise is at dance class each day, Cora is working hard to track down her origins.
Cora's search and what she finds, dealing with Louise's constant attacks on her views, and experiencing art and life in New York City all chip away at Cora's unquestioning acceptance of the conventions of her time and place about sex, race and class. She returns to Wichita as her own person; someone who will make her own decisions and judgments. Moriarty then takes us through the rest of Cora's life, showing us the liberties Cora achieves and the compromises she feels she still must make for the sake of convention and her family.
Louise Brooks's life is counterpoint to Cora's throughout the book, illustrating the possible prices to pay and benefits to gain from the women's very different approaches to life. This story of Cora's life's journey is heart-warming and engaging.
The audio edition is narrated by Elizabeth McGovern, currently of Downton Abbey fame. She has a lovely reading voice (though her Kansas accent sounds closer to a dialog coach's conception than the real deal) and having her as narrator makes the listener picture her as Cora, which I think adds something to the story.
"The Day of Battle" by Rick Atkinson.
Accent completely off -- upper-Midwest-speak is very different from flat-toned, Kansan. I am from Kansas, so I know. Mostly Ms. McGovern sounded like a character from "Fargo." It was very distracting.
Subject matter had a ton of potential -- underlying premise based in historical fact of a fascinating era (1920s), events (e.g., orphan train), and individual (Louise Brooks). Unfortunately, the dialogue and many of the scenes ring very false for the time, IMO. Ms. Moriarty, while knowing the basic history, wasn't able to capture the sensibility of the time in a way that felt genuine to me.
European history professor specializing in English history 1870-1939.
I would recommend it as relatively light fiction. The story doesn't really have an enormous amount of depth, though it is diverting enough.
This is the first audio book I have heard by Ms. McGovern, and she does an excellent job.
Cora's meeting with her biological mother.
I'm not sure that the story wouldn't have worked just as well without Louise Brooks. She didn't really add anything.
I am an avid "reader"- I prefer to listen to books rather than read them due to the added dimension added by the narrator.
I would not listen a second time though I enjoyed it the first time around.
I think that Cora's loosening up was my favourite moment… as she lost her prissiness and got more real. Of course, this was a function largely of the times in which she found herself… I was happy when she lost the corset!
I think that Cora's meeting with Mrs. O'Dell was particularly moving… She had waited so long for it and it turned out to be a dead end. This is not to say that she did not benefit from the end result of the meeting… I believe it gave her permission to be herself, a much looser, more "real" version of herself. It also opened her eyes to the reality of giving a child up for adoption.
The story was very engaging. I enjoyed following Cora through her life's story and watching her triumph in the end over all the adversity she had faced. Bravo!
I admit a bias because my grandmother was a contemporary of Louise. It was easy for me to picture my grandmother sitting next to Cora at the picture show. Cora reminded me so much of the practical perseverence that is common amongst my Kansas female relatives. I loved the dialogue, though there was something not quite right about the accent as read by Ms. McGovern. It is more than forgiven. This book was a delightful surprise. It reminds us that the circumstances our families must live with are not new, but thankfully just a little more acceptable. I certainly hope there is more to come. Wichita during the war years had the Boeing factory full of Rivet Annie's. Surely there is a story there!
A little like Water for Elephants. Life in show biz is hard on the soul.
I loved the scene in Grand Central Station with Cora and her mother. It was so realistic.
I have a 3 hour commute to work every day so I listen to audiobooks to help with my drive. It's added some happiness to my day (if it's a good book)!
I loved Cora's story. She was an example of how women have changed in America, for the better.
It really spoke to me when she was at the air conditioned luncheon and then realized the woman was raising money to oppose birth control. Cora was such a lady and I loved how she left, dropping quarters into the jar for the poor.
Her voice is just magical to me.
Yes it was.
Suzanne, avid reader and listener who loves a broad range of genres but, ecpecially authors,T.C. Boyle, Jodi Picoult, Barbara Kingsolver, Lionel Shriver, Sue Miller, Larry McMurty, Bryce Courteran, Lisa Gardner, Brian Haig, Richard North Patterson, Nelson Demille, Robert Tannenbaum, Sara Gruen, Kate Norton, Steig Larsen, Tana French and Gillian Flynn!! Still many more and the number of authors I enjoy continues to grow.
Compelling, Intriguing, and Poignant
I was happy and surprised to see the " chaperone " come to life and find love.
Sorry, I read this months ago but, still wanted to provide a review.
Two women come together for a brief and transformative time.
I was particularly pleased with the end of the book. Both of these women, in there own way and time, survived, grew, and ultimately triumphed over they're very different and challenging circumstances.