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Summary and book reviews of The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

The Chaperone

by Laura Moriarty

The Chaperone
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2012, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2013, 416 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Rigby

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Book Summary

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 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.

One

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 ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The Chaperone opens with Cora Carlisle waiting out a rainstorm in a car with a friend when she hears about Louise Brooks for the first time. What do we learn about Cora in this scene? What does it tell us about her and the world she lives in? Why does Laura Moriarty, the author, choose to open the novel this way? Why do you think she waits to introduce us to Brooks?

  2. When we first meet Louise Brooks, she seems to be the complete opposite of Cora, but the two women form an unlikely bond anyway. Are they really so dissimilar? What does Cora learn from Louise? Do you think Louise learns anything from Cora?

  3. When Cora arrives in New York, the city is worlds away from her life in Wichita. How much do you think Cora actually embraces New York?...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

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 Members Only (493 words).

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

The novel, which in its final stretch races to 1982, attempts to portray Cora as a heroine buffeted by the bigotry and priggishness of the Jazz Age, but glosses over events and neglects the inner lives of many of its characters.

Booklist - Margaret Flanagan

[T]he always engrossing Moriarty has combined real-life and fictional characters to great effect as both Cora and Louise end up defying the conventional expectations of the era with mixed results.

Library Journal

Moriarty is a wonderful storyteller; it's hard to put this engaging novel down. Fans of the Jazz Age and sweeping historical fiction will likely feel the same way.

Author Blurb Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife
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.

Author Blurb Jenna Blum, author of Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers
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.

Author Blurb Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab's Wife and Adam & Eve
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.

Reader Reviews
Louise J

Fantastic Read!
The Chaperone is a wonderful novel of self-courage that is filled with insight yet gracefully poignant. I loved this book and might just read it again!

Sandra Walters

Liked it quite a bit
I heard part of 'The Chaperone" on Sirius book radio and that made me want to read the entire story. I'm a fan of "old Hollywood" stories, and I enjoyed this book a lot. The author writes well and her characters and the situations ...   Read More

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Louise Brooks

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.

Louise Brooks 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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