Saturday, September 29, 2012

the chaperone

In the summer of 1922, Wichita housewife Cora spends a month in New York City playing the chaperone to 15-year-old Louise Brooks (who, of course, will go on to become a very famous silent film star). Louise will be taking dance classes, and Cora wishes to learn more about her past (she spent a small piece of her childhood in an orphanage in New York). 

The story revolves around Cora, with Louise flitting in and out. So if you're looking for a book about Louise Brooks, this probably isn't the book for you. Only a couple of scenes really focus on her and her life. However, Cora's story is very interesting in its own right. Her seemingly perfect life (handsome husband, twin boys headed to college in the fall) is more complicated than she initially reveals. Unfortunately, as the story went on it began to feel very heavy handed. Historical details are thrown in just for the sake of educating the reader (instead of seamlessly integrated into the plot). Life lessons are blatant and spelled out clearly, with Cora noting each revelation as it happens. The changes in society and ideas about morality and family are also clearly detailed, as if the author just couldn't trust the reader to understand the story without explanation. 

Finally, it continues on for at least 50 pages more than it should. The end of the trip to New York would have been the perfect time to end the book, maybe with a quick flash forward epilogue. Instead, we labor through the characters' lives up until the end (in the section after NYC, we travel slowly from 1922 all the way through 1970). It felt like the author just loved her characters too much and wanted to show her readers exactly how the rest of their lives went, which was not necessary. We don't need to know how many grandchildren Cora ends up with, all the highs and lows of Louise Brooks's career, how WWII affects the family, when Cora's husband dies, when Cora herself dies . . . Much too much!

But I loved learning about Louise Brooks (even if I had to see her as a fictional character) and reading about the 1920s in New York. Cora's childhood and young adulthood was very interesting to read about and I was fully prepared to give this 4 stars until I reached those chapters of blatant exposition and realization (and the excessive post-New York chapters). Not a bad read.

TITLE: The Chaperone
AUTHOR: Laura Moriarty
PUBLICATION DATE: 1 January 2012
DATE FINISHED: 29 September 2012
VERDICT: 3/5 stars. Interesting, but too heavy handed.


  1. Sounds like an interesting historical read, but yeah, maybe a bit heavy-handed. It is interesting that the author chose to write about the characters' lives over the course of fifty years, rather than skip ahead to an epilogue set in 1970. I like the cover-- it has a Roaring 20s feel to it.

    Kat @ A Myriad of Books

    1. Definitely a beautiful cover! That's what drew me to it originally. I love the design and colors and of course, Louise Brooks is just really beautiful.


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