“Only a few years before becoming a famous silent-film star and an icon of her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita, Kansas, to study with the prestigious Denishawn School of Dancing 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, a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip, has no idea what she’s in for. Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous black bob with blunt bangs, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will transform their lives forever.
For Cora, the city holds the promise of discovery that might answer the question at the core of her being, and even as she does her best to watch over Louise in this strange and bustling place she embarks on a mission of her own. And while what she finds isn’t what she anticipated, she is liberated in a way she could not have imagined. Over the course of Cora’s relationship with Louise, her eyes are opened to the promise of the twentieth century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive.
Drawing on the rich history of the 1920s, ’30s, and beyond — from the orphan trains to Prohibition, flappers, and the onset of the Great Depression to the burgeoning movement for equal rights and new opportunities for women — Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone illustrates how rapidly everything, from fashion and hemlines to values and attitudes, was changing at this time and what a vast difference it all made for Louise Brooks, Cora Carlisle, and others like them.”
I had the hardest time connecting with this book because there was not a likable character in the whole bunch. I found Cora to be a judgmental hypocrite, I found her husband to be a self-righteous liar, and don’t even get me started on what I thought of Louise. Cora starts out the book by lying about why she wants chaperone Louise on her trip to New York, yet she has kittens anytime Louise is loose with the truth. When Louise and Cora depart on the trip Cora makes the mental observation that Cora would probably be better served with a better mother, yet instead of trying to be that motherly influence on her she winds up being an overbearing prude.
Once they arrive in New York Cora takes the first opportunity to sneak away to the orphanage where she spent several years where she promptly judges the handyman before getting to know him, yet she jumps at the chance to use him and risk his job to get the information she needs. The only time I really felt sorry for Cora was when she met her birth mother, who is just as selfish as everyone else in the book, and when she discusses how her adoptive parents died and what she went through after that.
I did feel bad for Josef and for Cora’s husband’s “friend” when her husband is dying. The four of them living a life that they felt that they couldn’t share with the people that they loved the most, their children, was very sad. However, I felt that they should have given their kids the benefit of the doubt. The ending didn’t redeem the book any either as I felt that it was rushed.
2 out of 5