142 of 170 people found the following review helpful
A good story, but...,
This review is from: The Chaperone (Hardcover)
I debated whether to give this book 3 or 4 stars. It was certainly well written. It was a good story that kept my interest throughout the book ( until the very end). I am a big fan of historical fiction and this didn't disappoint in that regard ( although there were times at the beginning when I had to remind myself that it was supposed to be set in the 20's). My main criticism is that the main character ( who is a middle aged housewife from the Midwest and former farm girl) starts throwing off previously held beliefs about social conventions at an alarming rate. Near the middle of the book it almost started to devolve into a sort of silliness as one by one, Cora becomes "enlightened" about a number of mores. I do know the 20's were a time of great social upheaval, but it would have seemed more believable (for this particular character) if perhaps the author would have focused on Cora having one epiphany and her struggles related to it.
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 27, 2012 4:35:35 PM PDT
I agree that Cora's outlook undergoes a major shift, but I think that Moriarity did a good job of this. Ultimately, I think Cora is limited to one epiphany. It manifests itself in various situations, but all of her changes can be traced back to one basic realization. I think, ultimately, that the pacing at the end may be a minor concern in regards to the social conventions. Most of the book is made up of a matter of weeks, and then there are decades passing within a matter of pages. It makes Cora's transformation feel a bit too easy. I can't really fault Moriarity for this, though, as this is a story about how a trip with Louise changes Cora, and really digging into the struggles of the change after the fact would alter the focus of the story.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 29, 2012 3:28:39 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 29, 2012 3:30:56 AM PDT
There is nothing that aggravates me more when reading historical fiction than when the character or characters could be just as comfortable walking the streets of modern day L.A. as they are in whatever time period they are supposed to be in.To a certain extent, authors of historical fiction have to put modern day sensibilities into their characters or story to attract/connect with modern audiences. The trick is being subtle about it. I'll give you that Ms. Moriarity did a pretty good job of that up until a certain point. I suppose that is why it was so disappointing to me when Cora changed so drastically after her trip to New York. **Spoiler Alert** She goes from being a respectable, Kansas housewife and mother, to having an affair ( plausible, considering the state of her marriage) but goes a step further by bringing her lover home to live with her (yep, hubby lives there, too!) embraces her husband's boy friend, (and by a certain point in the book it's as if they are all co-existing as one big, happy family), champions against birth control, and on and on it goes. Of course, this didn't all happen last week, but nearly 100 years ago! There is really nothing in the book that explains why one summer in New York City with a snarky teenager would cause someone to shed one's skin so readily and so thoroughly. Impossible, no, but her transformation into a 21st century heroine, seemingly overnight, just didn't ring true to me.
In reply to an earlier post on Jul 8, 2012 7:17:24 AM PDT
Totally agree with you there Christine.I loved the book other than the third part where all you describe happens.I felt like I was reading something that would happen in modern times not the 1920's.I have no hard facts but it all seemed too tidy .
Posted on Aug 13, 2012 1:55:21 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Dec 13, 2012 5:41:44 AM PST
Eric Stott says:
I agree- Cora was embracing some pretty modern ideas very quickly- I could have accepted one or two of the incidents- no single one was completely illogical- but the combination took the novel into fantasy land. The whole gimmick of Louise Brooks was just that- the novel could have been managed without dragging her into it, and the dragged out epilogue of Brooks' later life had little more purpose than to say "She was a bitch - it serves her right"
Posted on Aug 14, 2012 9:37:01 PM PDT
Charismatic Creature says:
Christine, this is a very good and honest reflection on this book. I enjoyed reading it -- the author writes well and is talented -- but I had the same reservations that you did. Now, I could see the summer in NYC being a catalyst, and having Cora meet her birth mother, and even have an affair. But at the point she takes him HOME WITH HER and they all live in one happy, liberated family (gay couple, live-together couple, child), it was just too much and not credible.
Throw in stuff like adoption rights, the Midwestern adoption trains, bad Catholic orphanges (ala Magdalene laundries), birth control, child molestation -- it was beginning to feel like a compendium of Orpah episodes.
Any 2 or 3 of these could have combined into a fine book, about 30% SHORTER. But all of them just bogged things down. It felt like the author wished to "prove" Cora was on the mark with every social revolution of the 20th century -- only 75 years before they happened.
I am old enough to have had aunts and uncles who would have been Cora's age, and with the morality of that turn of the last century era, and frankly I am not buying her "liberation" -- not on so many differing issues.
If the author (or a really good editor) had just made her end this book earlier -- had Cora go home after her affair, and rethink her loveless marriage to a gay man -- maybe decide she deserved better -- then just ended things, it would have been a fine little book. Using the little known character of Louise Brooks was interesting; I don't know if Brooks was really molested at 9, but if not, the author overplayed that aspect of it. (You can be a wild girl as a teen without having been molested.)
By the last chapters, I wanted to get a yellow highlighter, and tick off the various sentences that were just FAR too contemporary, including curse words that were not vogue in the 20s.
I also didn't see any reason we needed to read about every detail of Cora's last 50 years, right up until her deathbed. Overkill.
Your last sentence nails it -- the author should have focused on ONE (or perhaps 2) epiphanies for Cora and wrapped up the Louise Brooks tale, and then ended it. Not 20 different epiphanies.
In reply to an earlier post on Aug 29, 2012 11:34:44 AM PDT
I was glad to read your comment about words that weren't around in the 1920's. One in particular that Louise used at one point was "humongous." According to my dictionary, this word didn't even exist until sometime in the late 1960's!!
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 13, 2012 4:50:28 AM PST
Patricia E. Boyd says:
Hah, Bobby! Just had to answer the "humongous" comment. I too looked this word up when I encountered it, and I found the same thing. The word just jumped out as incongruous. A copyeditor slipped on that one.
Though I agree with people's comments above, I admit that I enjoyed the book for its very tidy ending. Since I had the book on my MP3, I wasn't aware of how many "pages" were left. So I had suspected that after her affair in NYC, this was near the end of the book. But still, since I had fallen in love with the characters, I must say I was guiltily pleased that the book continued into a less realistic ending, because, after all, I do read novels to escape!
Posted on Jan 1, 2013 2:05:32 PM PST
My sentiments exactly.
In reply to an earlier post on Mar 3, 2013 12:11:02 PM PST
Nancy Talbot Doty says:
Christine (and her successors) are right. This was a wonderful book up to the middle (literally). I went to bed at page 189 and woke up next day, wildly eager to get back to it. Unfortunately it was all down hill from there due to increasingly unbelievable developments. And the author's failure to give the same detailed attention to the story-line's progress. I felt I had been cheated and could not give "The Chaperone" more than two stars in the end.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 16, 2013 9:56:35 PM PDT
A. Rochester says:
I sat down to write a review, but you have said it all. Actually, I felt I had read 2 different stories, before and after. Humongous jumped out at me also. Can't believe it slipped into the book.