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Showing 1-10 of 1,030 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 1,294 reviews
on February 17, 2014
I loved the glimpse Moriarty gave me into life in the 1920s - what it was like to be in New York City, what it felt like to wear a corset, and how easily people went along with the beliefs of the time. Cora herself was such an interesting character: I totally related to her as someone who is around the same age and in a similar phase in life, and I liked how the author portrayed her as someone supported the antiquated notions of the time (she is shocked to see black people mingling with white people in a theatre, and she thinks Prohibition is a positive thing) - it was done in a way where you could see how easily middle America agreed with these laws, even those who are smart and kind and will eventually be enlightened that there's a better way to live, as does Cora.

The most compelling section of the book was definitely the time that Cora spent in New York City. I couldn't believe how long the book lasted after this part, though, it dragged and dragged as Cora lived the rest of her life, and since it wasn't nearly as interesting as her time in New York, I felt like it was extraneous. It was, however, intriguing to see historical events and the country changing through Cora's eyes.

Moriarty is skilled at writing historical fiction, though, and I'd welcome the chance to read another book of hers.
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I really enjoyed this in anticipation of Julian Fellowe's (Downton Abbey) screen adaptation starring Elizabeth McGovern. It takes place in the 1920's in both Wichita,KS and NYC. A proper, middle aged wife and Wichita mother of two college bound sons agrees to chaperone a spoiled, recalcitrant 15 year old dance prodigy to NYC to a month-long dance academy. Trouble and a generational conflict between the two erupt almost immediately. There are other equally interesting intertwining sub-plots that held my interest. This will make for a film well worth seeing, both quiet and powerful, if Fellowes' Midas Touch for brilliant interpretation combined with a good story well told indicate success on the big screen.
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on July 18, 2015
The Chaperone starts out like gangbusters, with proper, love-starved Cora chaperoning the talented, rebellious teenager Louise from Wichita to New York during the 1920s, to start a career in ballet. Unfortunately, the writing style is flat and predictable--on about a 10th grade level. You "see" people and places the author describes, but you don't really get a feel for them. Has the author ever really seen a New York apartment with an airshaft? Does she know anyone who was married to a gay man? The author also tends to push characters around, rather than letting the novel's action develop out of the characters themselves. When the Brooks family falls on hard times, the tone is almost smug: See how the mighty are fallen! I used to think they were so great, etc. Long before the end, I got tired of waiting to see how Cora would "out" her longtime love affair; I just didn't care anymore. I'd give this book a C for Can Do Better.
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on December 19, 2013
I really did enjoy this book, although I did debate about how many stars to give.

First of all, the good stuff. Laura Moriarty is a very good writer: we have great sympathy for Cora, and we learn a lot about the rather tragic silent film star, Louise Brooks who Cora chaperones to NYC. Cora has a secret about her life, in fact several, but then a lot of the characters in the book have some pretty heavy baggage that they need to keep hidden away. Wanting to know more about her birth mother, Cora uses information about her husband in order to get "permission" to accompany the beautiful Louise Brooks who, despite her young age, has some very dark secrets of her own.

Reading this novel is like peeling an onion, to use an overused but rather apt metaphor. Everyone seems to have secrets in this book, in fact some have secrets inside of secrets, and the depth of what they hide is what makes all the lives entwine. Cora goes through the motions of her life: dutiful wife, mother, and friend, yet there is an emptiness within her that many adopted children have, even as an adult, that has her sleepwalking through life. She accompanies Louise in order to find out more information about her background, yet it is her awakening and not Louise's in NYC which allows her to return home a more fulfilled person.

The biggest problem I had with this book was the timeline: I think that the author could have found a way to end it well before we see Cora's entire life stretched out before us. Sometimes less is indeed more, and I feel it would have been better to have left us thinking about the direction Cora's life was going rather than to have it laid out for us to the very end. Because of this, we lose the focus of the story which is essentially about Cora and Louise, not a lot of other characters I was not interested in. An afterward would have sufficed, perhaps.
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on March 31, 2016
A well crafted story of a woman's life (Cora) and the events and issues that shaped it. I found this book because it featured Louise Brooks. Cora is the chaperone for Louise, an aspiring 15 year old dancer from Kansas who is accepted at the Denishawn dance school in New York. Cora's adventures in chaperoning Louise could probably be expanded to fill a novella by itself, but the book isn't about Louise Brooks, who appears in the early chapters and occasionally later on. Cora has already gone through more challenges than most people, and this during the tremendous social upheavals of the 1920s. A world war had recently ended although the peace process went on long after hostilities had stopped, women gained voting rights and Prohibition was the law of the land, although not widely obeyed even by its own supporters. Louise Brooks embodies the wild, hedonistic and often disrespectful views and values of the era. Cora processes these influences and develops her own views and beliefs quickly as life's events happen. The author shows us Cora's thoughts, for example during the controversy over the use of birth control, when Cora boldly steps away from the conventional wisdom of her peers.

There are many different ways a person might respond as they find their way through life. Another person may have done it differently, but to take issue with how Cora's views change misses that point. This is Cora's story, not that of Louise or anyone else. I found this book fascinating and it held my interest all the way through. As a student of history I appreciate Laura Moriarty's accuracy and fairness. In any work of historical fiction one can find quibbles and bits but there is little of that in The Chaperone. Using the word 'humongous' might be a quibble but the feeling of authenticity of the book is not harmed. I say that as someone who has recently done a lot of research of the 1920s and 1930s, including reading books that were written in that time. People make up words all the time, for example 'posilutely' (combining positively and absolutely) was in fashion in the later 1920s.

I highly recommend The Chaperone for those who enjoy historical fiction with interesting and unique characters. Cora may not get drunk every night and dance in speakeasies, but she gives us a perspective of how a woman a generation older than Louise Brooks and the 1920s flappers could also be agents of social change.
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If you like a well-written novel set in the past, this novel imagines the story of a chaperone, Cora Carlisle, who accompanies Louise Brooks in 1922, when Brooks is 15, to New York City. The story is about the chaperone's adventures in the big city, and how it affects her life afterwards. Cora was born in the 1880's and is living in Wichita, Kansas. At the age of 36, she spends five weeks as a chaperone to Louise Brooks, who subsequently becomes a silent film star. Louise's life runs parallel, but the story centers on Cora and her life going forward. The Kansas housewife is a complex creation and can't be reduced to a stereotype. She makes some courageous choices. You really feel what it was like to live during these years. This was an engaging read, and might be interesting for a book group. After reading this book, you may want to view some of Brooks' old films. Brooks also wrote a book later in life. 4.5 stars.
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on April 26, 2016
My favorite genre is Historical Fiction and I can't think of another read that covers so many historical events in one book. Prohibition, introduction of contraception's into society, lysol as a form of birth control, society's view of impropriety, flappers, dress hem length, great depression, dust bowl, orphan train, and -the central issue - being gay in the 1900's. It depicts the sad effects of a person who couldn't live openly in society. Regardless of the times and society each of us is born into, we all have choices in how we behave. Saddened by Alan's deception and lies in dragging a woman into a loveless marriage without her knowledge. The surprising twist was a friendship struck between two oddly paired Chaperone and Chaperoned.

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.
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VINE VOICEon June 7, 2015
This novel of historical fiction is basically a vehicle for the author to explore the changing mores of mid-twentieth century America and the pressures to conform to traditional values. Louise Brooks, the silent film star of the 1920s, is a key character, but the story actually revolves around Cora Carlisle, a married woman from Wichita, KS, who chaperones Louise on a trip to NYC to attend a dancing school.

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.
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on April 14, 2015
This is an adoption story set in the mid-1900s against a backdrop of reformers efforts to rid New York City of vice and immorality through the temperance movement, Prohibition, and the birth control movement. It opens with Cora, age 5, riding an orphan train from New York City to Kansas where she is adopted by a farm family only to loose them in a tragic accident; is taken in by neighbors; and at 17 yrs. marries a much older lawyer, Alan, who has come to her aid. Alan has his own secret that he keeps especially from Cora -- a secret that would likely end his cover-up marriage and successful career were it to become public.
Themes of loss, hidden identity and arduously maintained cover stories are explored through several characters in this narrative. Cora is an exception as she is able to turn her struggle for authenticity into a positive force for social change. She takes on social causes, helps the stigmatized, and lives long enough to glimpse signs of social progress.
The narrative is most compelling when Cora is searching for her biological parents while chaperoning Louise, an out of control, talented teenager from Wichita to Manhattan. Louise has been invited to attend a prestigious summer dance program from which she may be chosen for the troupe and, as she sees it, never have to go home again.
The opening quarter of the book is slow and the final third lacks the rhythm and drive of the chase.
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on July 20, 2012
Although I thought this was a bit slow when I started it, I was soon pulled into the story of Cora. An orphan who came West on one of the orphan trains from New York, she found a new last name and a loving home. Still the prejudices of the time toward illegitimate children was sorely felt (all children from the trains were presumed to be illegitimate or from some other tainted background). Cora, however, grows into a lovely young woman who catches the eye of a successful family and soon marries Allan. Totally unprepared and uneducated in any manor regarding sex, she soon becomes pregnant with twins and endures a life threatening delivery. Allan tells her that would be the end of their sexual relations so that she never becomes pregnant again.

When the opportunity arises to chaperone young beautiful, talented and carefree Louise Brooks to New York City, she seizes the moment with the notion of finding her roots while in New York. The character of Louise (based on a real silent film star) is totally in opposition of Cora who has been brought up to be prim, proper, and above all else aware of what others may think of her. Her trip to New York changes her drastically. Without spoiling this captivating tale, Cora soon find that life is much more complicated than the strict moral codes of Wichita, Kansas. She does find something of her past, but she finds so much more as well. Yes, there is a lover involved, but not as one would imagine. The relationship with Allan and others in Wichita is so beautifully drawn.

I loved this book and particularly loved the ending which ends with Cora's death when in her 90's. Life in the United States changed radically from Cora's birth until her death. Her seemingly simple, yet ever so complicated life is a reflection of that change. Highly recommended for anyone who likes historical fiction, New York City, the midwest, and families.
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