on April 17, 2013
I just loved this book, and the biographical details mixed with fiction to explain about life in New York during the 1920-s.
A very exciting period, and the story is warm and sensitive in every way, both telling us the real story of the childhood of Movie star Louise Brooks and the story of an orphan girl trying to find love and acceptance, both as a child and a grown-up woman.
I had read where this book fell into the category of `historical fiction'. This novel encompasses so many different topics I am unable to categorize it as falling under any specific genre. By the second part of the book so many new revelations come about at such lightening speed it makes you suck in your breath because no way did you see that one coming.
One would expect such a novel to be confusing & difficult to read, but to the author's credit this is not the case. The story flows fairly smoothly to an acceptable conclusion, albeit, after a certain point, at the speed of light.
While the story is entwined around a 1920's silent movie actress, Louise Brooks, the book is categorically about - as the title suggests - `The Chaperone', Cora, a mid-western housewife.
Maybe it was just a clever idea to weave the two stories together - I don't know since I had never heard of Louise Brooks before. However, it peaked my interest enough that I will now look for some autobiographical material about Louise Brooks to read.
If in fact there is no truth to the connection between the real Louise Brooks & `The Chaperone' the book will have lost its credibility & perhaps Ms. Morarity could just as well have written a story about Cora - a mid-western housewife of the 1920's & her coming-of-age experiences. The connection between the two women seems almost incidental to Cora's story. Perhaps the title came first & then a story had to be designed to follow. Maybe?
In 1922, only a few years before she will become a famous film actress and an icon for her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita for a summer in New York City and the avant-garde Denishawn school of dance. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone. Cora Carlisle is neither mother nor friend, just a respectable neighbor whom Louise's parents have hired for propriety's sake. But upstanding, traditional Cora has her own private reason for making the trip.
Of course, Cora has no idea what she's in for; young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous black bob, is known for her arrogance, her disregard for convention, and her keen intelligence. By the time their train pulls into Grand Central, Cora fears that supervising Louise will be at best exhausting and, at worst, impossible. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will be the most important of her life.
For Cora, New York holds the promise of discovery that might answer 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 discovers 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.
In this beautifully written and deeply moving novel, fact and fiction blend together seamlessly to create a page-turning story of two very different women who share a desire for freedom and fulfillment.
Cora Carlisle is a thirty-six-year-old woman in 1920 married to, Alan, a successful lawyer and living in Wichita. Together they have twin boys who are away working on a farm for the summer and will be entering college upon their return. Cora is a strong woman, very traditional with her dress and a strong sense of right and wrong.
Abandoned as a child and living in an orphanage in New York, she is put on a train and adopted by the Kaufmann's and raised in the Midwest on a farm. She has always wanted to return to New York to try and find her birth mother so when an opportunity arises for her to "chaperone" fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks to New York for five weeks during the summer she jumps at the chance. Alan is busy at work and with her boys away it's the perfect time for her to go.
Louise Brooks is an absolutely drop-dead gorgeous young girl with black hair cut into a very short bob. She is a dancer and will be attending the Denishawn Dance Studio for the summer in the hope of being chosen as their star dancer and moving onto bigger and better things.
Cora soon realizes that her chaperoning job isn't going to be quite as easy as she first thought when Louise disappears at the train station while waiting with their families to see them off. When Cora excuses herself to find Louise who said she was going to the bathroom, she instead finds her outright flirting with a man. Once on the train it doesn't take Cora long to realize that Louise is going to run circles around her, is a tad mouthy, arrogant, and quite openly flirtatious. Cora tries to lecture her about respectability and being moral but Louise just scoffs at her. Cora has always tried her best to do what society and everyone else expects her to do rather than seek her own happiness, however that is about to change.
Upon her return from New York, she learns something about Alan that she'd rather not know and this provides her with the courage to abandon her old ways and begin living for her own happiness rather than what other people's expectations of her happiness should be.
During the last two-thirds of the book, we see a completely different Cora whom I came to admire. I think she showed a lot of courage and perhaps some may see her as being less than honest but I was rooting for her all the way. If anyone deserved a true sense of peaceful fulfillment and happiness, it is Cora Carlisle.
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!
on December 6, 2013
The Chaperone was truly a lovely surprise. I had never heard of Louise Brooks and was delighted to learn quite a bit about her in this wonderful novel. The main character, Cora accompanies Louise to New York City acting as the teenager's chaperone. This novel explores Cora's late coming of age, her growth as a human being and how she rises out of her tragic childhood. Her relationship with Brooks almost seems like it could have been made into a second novel. But Brooks' own childhood tragedies give Cora greater understanding about her narrow mindedness and act as impetus towards her growth. If you're a reader looking for a novel about Louise Brooks, you might be a bit disappointed, as she is not the major character. This book is about Cora but it is a story worth reading! I watching Cora grow from an abandoned orphan into a strong advocate and wonderful friend.
Beautifully written. Flows well and couldn't put it down!
A good story overall, but not the book I was expecting it to be. In all fariness, the book's title gives it away: this story is more about "the chaperone" than Hollywood star Louise Brooks. The reason why I had initially picked this book up was because I thought it would focus solely on Brooks. Perhaps the publishers should have chosen another cover image because this one leads the reader to believe that it's a novel about Brooks and no one else.
A quick read, it leaves the reader feeling satisfied at the end. However, the story itself has very little overall impact. I didn't care much for any of the characters to be honest and I didn't care what happened to them once the story was finished. Next time, I'll just pick up a Louise Brooks biography rather than a work of pure fiction that stamps her image on its cover.