The Chaperone is 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 15-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 20th century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive.
©2012 Laura Moriarty (P)2012 Penguin Audio
This book didn't know what it wanted to be - an introduction to Louise Brooks or a study in the nature of morality. Either would have been fine, but this tried to do both and lost something in the process. I thought the dynamic between Cora's conventionality and Louise's independence and rebelliousness was very good. Until the final part. Chapter after chapter rushing through decades, just so that the story could give you a sense of what happened to Louise Brooks over time. Do I want to know? YES I do! So I will go buy Brooks' memoire, Lulu in Hollywood. However, in this story, it just felt like lackluster add-on. The chapters focused on Cora about whom I did not care and gave us only glimpses of Louise who is absolutely fascinating. The book should have ended when the summer trip was over. That would have been a much better ending.
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora - how funny! With that said, she did a fabulous job.
This is one of those books that really hooked me in at first but fell off a bit towards the end. It's 1922, and Cora Carlisle, a respectable Wichita wife in her late thirties, is hired to accompany 15-year old Louise Brooks to New York City. Louise, who became a silent film star a few years later, had been accepted by the exclusive dance school run by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. Despite their age difference, it quickly becomes clear that it's Cora, not Louise, who is the more naive. Wherever they go, the beautiful Louise attracts male attention--and seems to know just what to do with it.
The story is more that of Cora than of Louise. The main reason that she wants to go to New York is to find out about her birth parents. She vaguely remembers a dark-haired woman holding her and singing in a foreign language, but her earliest clear memories are of the Catholic orphanage where she was raised to about age seven. Cora was one of thousands of orphaned children who were put on trains and shipped to potential parents in the plains states. Fortunately, her adoptive parents were loving and kind, but as she grew, Cora's life was not untouched by tragedy. In a day when adoption records were sealed, Cora attempts to find out who where she came from, who she really is.
The confrontations between Cora and Louise are exactly what one would expect, Cora constantly reminding her charge that she mustn't allow herself to be "compromised," Louise scoffing at Cora's old-fashioned Christian morality. This leads to a lot of self-examination on the chaperone's part, including the revelation of family secrets. But it isn't long before Louise is invited to join the Denis-Shawn company, and Cora heads back to Wichita--but not exactly to the same life.
The last quarter of the novel rushes through 50+ years of Cora's life, with occasional mentions and sightings of Louise. Overall, it seems rushed, and rather formulaic, all the 'surprises' too anticipated: hence the 3.5 rating. The rush is even more pronounced because the section on Louise seems rather dragged out. Think about the balance: 3/4 of the book focused on a few months in 1922 (plus Cora's memories), 1/3 covering the next 50+ years.
Overall, it's not a bad read, just slightly disappointing in the end. One thing I did get out of it was a renewed interest in Louise Brooks, one of the most distinctively stunning and most controversial actresses of the silent film era.
Quite high. I enjoyed Moriarty's debut "The Center of Everything" immensely, but was disappointed by her subsequent books. This book brings the changing social customs of the early 1920s to life with grace, complexity, and humor. It took about an hours to get in to Elizabeth McGovern's performance, but once I got into it, I allowed her soothing, expressive diction carry me along.
"The Other Typist", at least for New York Period details.
Oh, her dialogue was amazing! Joseph, Cora, Louise were all drawn with great emotion, accent, expression.
I agree with many reviews that Cora's backstory was much more compelling than Louise's present-day one, but there is only so much fiction Moriarty could create for a well-known figure.
This is a welcome addition to my historical fiction library.
What a waste of a credit, if you want the characters to anything interesting, don't read this book.
Not necessarily. I LOVE listening to all my Audible books on tapes, but Elizabeth Montgomery's "lilt" is not so much an English lilt (as Jess from NJ complained) as I think her pronunciations are typical of extensive elocution lessons. And I found her pronunciations annoying. PAIRents (with a sort or rolling r, as the Irish might pronounce it) -- KLEEN with a big emphasis on the "CL" sound -- and PLEEEEZED -- Tyewsday, instead of Tuesday ---- NYEWS, instead of news -- a NYEW dress -- does it SYEWT you, instead of "does it suit you" (said as we Americans say suit ---- countless examples. The way she says "turn" -- and "return" -- ewww. It's just quite annoying to listen to, really. But it's a really good story, and I adore Elizabeth McGovern in Downton Abbey. The elocution works well in Downton Abbey... But I'd like to hear someone else narrate this, honestly. How about Susan Sarandon -- how about Julianne Moore. Anyone really.
I loved how wonderful the Kaufman's were to Cora. I liked how the janitor decided to help her. I'm still listening at this point.
I described this above.
I think the chaperone.
A very good story.
Surprising, historical, interesting
It was different than most of the mystery or romance novels I read. Different character types, different story lines. I really liked it. Usually I can always guess what's going to happen, but not this time!
I really enjoyed this book, especially the follow up with all the characters. There are plenty of interesting plot twists to keep you interested to know more and keep on reading/listening. I like historical fiction a lot, and I have already recommended this book to a few people.
I loved everything about this book. Well written with brilliant characters and a fabulous story. Elizabeth McGovern was a brilliant reader and gave a very clear picture of each character. This is a story that grabs you from the very first and doesn't let go until the very last word.
Excellent performance by Elizabeth McGovern! I truly enjoyed the character of Cora and the depth of her character as the storyline unfolded. Although taking place in the 20's, the issues were very poignant for today. A truly engaging and wonderful experience.
Definitely! I didn't want the story to end. It was very unpredictable. I couldn't tell where the story was going, and I was surprised several times.
Dealt with social morays in time periods that where these things were not heard of, but it was never preachy.
She sounded like the voice that would have spoke in my own head. Good regional accents
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