Only a few years before becoming a famous actress and an icon for her generation, a fifteen-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 twentieth century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive.
The first time Cora heard the name Louise Brooks, she was parked outside the Wichita Library in a Model-T Ford, waiting for the rain to stop. If Cora had been alone, unencumbered, she might have made a dash across the lawn and up the library's stone steps, but she and her friend Viola Hammond had spent the morning going door-to-door in their neighborhood, collecting books for the new children's room, and the considerable fruits of their efforts were safe and dry in four crates in the backseat. The storm, they decided, would be a short one, and they couldn't risk the books getting wet.
And really, Cora thought, staring out into the rain, it wasn't as if she had anything else to do. Her boys were already gone for the summer, both of them working on a farm outside Winfield. In the fall, they would leave for college. Cora was still getting used to the quiet, and also the freedom, of this new era of her life. Now, long after Della left for the day, the house stayed clean, with no ...
The Chaperone offers an imaginative take on women's lives. Though some readers may question the main characters' interpretation of what a newly liberated, enlightened life entails, this is a worthy portrait of loyalty in friendship, courage in the face of disappointment, and belief in remaking the self.
(Reviewed by Karen Rigby).
Full Review (802 words).
Louise Brooks (1906-1985), born Mary Louise Brooks, was a dancer, Ziegfeld girl, silent film actress, memoirist (Lulu in Hollywood), and in her later years, an icon rediscovered and beloved by French film historians such as Henri Langois, who remarked, "There is no Garbo! There is no Dietrich! There is only Louise Brooks!" She was best known for her roles in Pandora's Box and Diary of a Lost Girl, both 1929 German films directed by G.W. Pabst.
In Pandora's Box, Brooks is cast as Lulu, a modern woman whose sexualized behavior turns destructive, and who eventually meets Jack the Ripper. The racy plot inspired by playwright Frank Wedekind's work, Die Büchse der Pandora, was at the time considered melodramatic, and Brooks's ...
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