Author: Laura Moriarty
Read: January 16, 2014
Summary: The New York Times bestseller and the USA Today #1 Hot Fiction Pick for the summer, 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 silent-film star and an icon of her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita, Kansas, to study with the prestigious Denishawn School of Dancing 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, a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip, has no idea what she’s in for. Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous black bob with blunt bangs, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will transform their lives forever.
For Cora, the city holds the promise of discovery that might answer the question at the core of her being, and even as she does her best to watch over Louise in this strange and bustling place she embarks on a mission of her own. And while what she finds isn’t what she anticipated, she is liberated in a way she could not have imagined. Over the course of Cora’s relationship with Louise, her eyes are opened to the promise of the twentieth century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive.
Drawing on the rich history of the 1920s,’30s, and beyond—from the orphan trains to Prohibition, flappers, and the onset of the Great Depression to the burgeoning movement for equal rights and new opportunities for women—Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone illustrates how rapidly everything, from fashion and hemlines to values and attitudes, was changing at this time and what a vast difference it all made for Louise Brooks, Cora Carlisle, and others like them. goodreads
Review: Oh, I love the 20's! I thoroughly enjoyed being transported into the Jazz Age to discover Cora and Louise. I think one of the pivotal parts of this story is the fact that Louise Brooks is a real person. I didn't realize this until I was well into the book and when I found out, I thought it made this story so much more tragic than it already was. I tend to relate to characters as real people and empathize with them anyway but when I found out that a real person had actually gone though some of this (obviously very loosely based) it just made my heart ache even more.
The initial premise of the story is that Cora must chaperone Louise on her trip to NY to participate in a dancing troupe. It is quickly revealed that Cora has a plan of her own which involves delving into her past for answers but also finding herself which she has never been able to do in Kansas. Why NY had to be the place where she could finally follow her heart, I don't know but it worked in the story. So we follow the girls to The Big City where Louise is constantly ignoring the rules and regulations of society and Cora is trying her hardest to teach her the value of morals. Along the way, both girls grow up. Louise doesn't necessarily find her way but she makes her way to what she thinks it is she wants. Cora gets some answers and finally starts to see there is more to life than just what is expected of you as a good housewife and ends up shirking her morals and embracing feminist beliefs as well as an older German gentleman.
When they return home (or leave NY) things start to move along very quickly with Cora becoming her own person but also hiding who she really is. I think this was another tragic part of the story. Cora finally found her happiness but she was not brave enough to share it with the world and allowed her morals to hold her back from being truly happy. She was not so set in her morals that she wouldn't break them but she definitely wouldn't break them in public. Louise goes on to be a big star with her own version of tragedy interspersed but her way of coping and living makes sense based on her background so you can't fault her too much for it.
This was a coming of age novel to an extent and the two characters were vastly different but also had similarities and were able to learn from each other, whether they acknowledged this learning or not. I really enjoyed following their lives through the 20s and 30s and wished that the relationship between Cora and Louise were actually true.