Title: The Chaperone
Author: Laura Moriarty
Release Date: June 5, 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Thirty-six year old Cora Carlisle is relatively satisfied with her life in Kansas, but when she receives the opportunity to play chaperone to fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks, she decides that it’s time for her to return to New York. No one in Cora’s life except for her husband knows about her past and her connection to New York City, and she doesn’t feel especially inclined to share her personal reasons for making the trip. Louise proves to be more of a handful than expected and as Cora tries to manage her own issues and her charge, she finds that her outlook on life changes as a result of her experiences.
When I first started The Chaperone, I didn’t realize that Louise Brooks was an actual actress from the 1930s. Moriarty has taken this larger-than-life woman and built a rich and complex story around her origins. It’s not the type of novel I’d normally pick up, but after hearing rave reviews about it, I decided to give it a chance. I’m so glad I did; Laura Moriarty’s novel is both beautifully written, as well as incredibly engaging.
Cora is an absolutely wonderful character to center The Chaperone around; though Louise is an important character, this is Cora’s story. She’s smart and easy to like, though she is a bit buttoned up when the novel begins. She takes her role as Louise’s chaperone very seriously. As the book progresses, and Cora learns more about her origins, as well as spends more time with Louise, she changes. It’s lovely to be a witness to this character development, as Cora grows as a person and opens her mind.
Moriarty is an absolute genius when it comes to characterization. Both Cora and Louise leap off the page, as she creates fully realized characters with a lot of depth. Though Louise is very difficult at the beginning of the book, as The Chaperone progresses and the reader comes to understand her more, they can’t help but sympathize with her. She is a broken young woman, and it’s sad at how damaged he is, and at such a young age.
The Chaperone also provides a fascinating glimpse into the culture of the United States in the 1920s. Morals and societal values were changing every day, and both Cora and Louise are caught up in the center of this transformation. The setting and characters come together to create a breathtaking read that readers won’t be able to put down. If you’re looking for a new pick for your book club, Cora’s transformation and Louise’s issues would both make excellent discussion topics.