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The Chaperone Hardcover – June 5, 2012
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"The Chaperone is the enthralling story of two women . . . and how their unlikely relationship changed their lives. . . . In this layered and inventive story, Moriarty raises profound questions about family, sexuality, history, and whether it is luck or will—or a sturdy combination of the two—that makes for a wonderful life."—O, The Oprah Magazine
"In her new novel, The Chaperone, Laura Morirty treats this golden age with an evocative look at the early life of silent-film icon Louise Brooks, who in 1922 leaves Wichita, Kansas, for New York City in the company of 36-year-old chaperone, Cora Carlisle. . . . A mesmerizing take on women in this pivotal era."—Vogue
"With her shiny black bob and milky skin, Louise Brooks epitomized silent-film glamour. But in Laura Moriarty's engaging new novel The Chaperone, Brooks is just a hyper-precocious and bratty 15-year-old, and our protagonist, 36-year-old Cora Carlisle, has the not-easy mission of keeping the teenager virtuous while on a trip from their native Kansas to New York City. After a battle of wills, there's a sudden change of destiny for both women, with surprising and poignant results."—Entertainment Weekly
"Throughout The Chaperone, her fourth and best novel, Laura Moriarty mines first-rate fiction from the tension between a corrupting coastal media and the ideal of heart-of-America morality. . . . . Brooks's may be the novel's marquee name, but the story's heart is Cora's. With much sharpness but great empathy, Moriarty lays bare the settled mindset of this stolid, somewhat fearful woman—and the new experiences that shake that mindset up."—San Francisco Weekly
"Film star Louise Brooks was a legend in her time, but the real lead of The Chaperone is Cora Carlise, Brooks' 36-year-old chaperone for her first visit to New York City in 1922. As Cora struggles to tame Louise's free spirit, she finds herself moving past the safety of her own personal boundaries. In this fictional account of Cora and Louise's off-and-on relationship, Laura Moriarty writes with grace and compassion about life's infinite possibilities for change and, ultimately, happiness."—Minneapolis Star Tribune
“When silent film star Louise Brooks was a sexually provocative and headstrong 15-year-old from Kansas, she traveled with a chaperone to new York City to attend dance school. In this fascinating historical novel, her minder, Cora, struggles to keep her charge within the bounds of propriety but finds herself questioning the confines of her own life. Thorough Cora the world of early 20th-century America comes alive, and her personal triumphs become cause for celebration.”—People
"Captivating and wise . . . In The Chaperone, Moriarty gives us a historically detailed and nuanced portrayal of the social upheaval that spilled into every corner of American life by 1922. . . . [An] inventive and lovely Jazz Age story."—Washington Post
"#1 Summer 2012 novel."—The Christian Science Monitor
"A fun romp."—Good Housekeeping
"Devour it."—Marie Claire
"The novel is captivating, and the last lines about Cora (you might think I’m giving everything away, but I’m not giving anything away—the story rolls through changes in terrain so subtle that it’s like a train from Wichita to New York and back) capsulate it all, revealing the richness of the saga.”—The Daily Beast
"The Chaperone," an enchanting, luminous new novel by Laura Moriarty, fictionalizes the tale of the very real caretaker who accompanied a 15-year-old Louise Brooks on the first leg of her journey to silent-movie stardom. . . . Moriarty is a lovely writer, warm and wise."—Cleveland Plain Dealer
"It is [Louise Brooks's] endearing and surprising companion Cora Carlisle—a sharply drawn creating—who is the heart and soul of this stirring story.”—Family Circle
"Captivating and wise."—Newsday
“While Louise lends The Chaperone a dose of fire, the novel’s heart is its heroine, who has a tougher time swimming in the seas of early-20th-century America than her ward does. As the story carries on, Moriarty’s greatest strength proves to be her ability to seamlessly weave together Cora’s present, future and colorful past.”—Time Out
“Set to be the hit of the beach read season.”—Matchbook
“The challenges of historical fiction are plentiful—how to freely imagine a person who really lived, how to impart modern sensibility to a bygone era, how to do your research without exactly showing your research. And yet, when this feat is achieved artfully (we’re talking Loving Frank or Arthur and George artfully), it can transport a reader to another time and place. Laura Moriarty’s new novel, The Chaperone, falls into this category.”—Bookpage
“It’s impossible not to be completely drawn in by The Chaperone. Laura Moriarty has delivered the richest and realest possible heroine in Cora Carlisle, a Wichita housewife who has her mind and heart blown wide open, and steps—with uncommon courage—into the fullness of her life. What a beautiful book. I loved every page.”—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife
“What a charming, mesmerizing, transporting novel! The characters are so fully realized that I felt I was right there alongside them. A beautiful clarity marks both the style and structure of The Chaperone.”—Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab's Wife and Adam & Eve
“The Chaperone is the best kind of historical fiction, transporting you to another time and place, but even more importantly delivering a poignant story about people so real, you'll miss and remember them long after you close the book.”—Jenna Blum, author of Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers
About the Author
Laura Moriarty is the author of The Center of Everything, The Rest of Her Life, and While I’m Falling. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas.
Top customer reviews
Cora seems to have a perfect, but perfectly ordinary, life as the book opens. She lives in Wichita. She's in her mid-30's, married to a handsome, kind and successful lawyer, with two sons. She's no shrinking violet: She was an early "lady driver" and a suffragette, but she is also very traditional, with her high collars and constricting corsets and a strong sense of duty. So it's a bit of a surprise when she offers to chaperone a virtual stranger, the wild and rebellious fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks, to her dance classes in New York.
Cora, we learn, has her own reasons for going to New York. I'm not going to say anything else because I don't want to give away anything that readers should discover on their own. Suffice it to say that Cora's story went in different directions, far from what I had originally expected - - you know, the stuffy middle-aged woman goes wild and learns to enjoy life thanks to the wise teenager. No. It's much better and more unexpected and very enjoyable, primarily thanks to the character of Cora. I just adored her.
Overall, so many concepts and thoughts to digest and think upon: How to make lemonade when life gives you lemons, living a life in secret with no one really knowing you are what makes you tick (sad), wishful thinking that our choices in life have no real consequences. Enjoyed this thought provoking story.
Louise, the amazingly beautiful daughter of a disinterested, avant-garde mother, even at age fifteen flaunts all conventions regarding dress, appearance, bold behavior, etc. Cora has the thankless task of keeping all of that under control while in NYC. But in a strange turn in this story, it is Cora who in NYC embarks on a life of discovery and handling socially delicate situations. Coming to Kansas on a train as an orphan many years before, Cora has to this point led a fairly quiet, conventional life, although with one dark secret.
From this point, such issues as homes for unwed mothers, adoption of orphans, prohibition, homosexuality, marital arrangements, contraception, civil rights, etc will impact her directly or indirectly. Cora, despite her modest and trying beginning, is portrayed as a compassionate woman capable of changing her views. In many cases, she is forced to make changes for her own survival. While Cora is a likeable character, it may be a stretch to imbue her with such a large capacity for progressive thought and action. Also, it is a little disappointing that Louise recedes in importance in this story despite her intriguing personality.
The real star of the book is The chaperone, Cora who accompanies Louise Brooks the summer she gets her start in NY.
I don't believe in reviews which recount the plot of the book. What I will tell you is there are wonderful characterizations of a middle aged lady who's seeking answers and a snotty, narcissistic, but highly talented teenager. Don miss!
It was a saga of that time. Our history of bans against gays, alcohol, adoption secrets and birth control.
It left me needing an ending to tie the story together. There were all the secrets and puritanical laws that adversely affected all Americans.