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Review: ‘The Chaperone’ by Laura Moriarty

Review: ‘The Chaperone’ by Laura Moriarty post image

Title: The Chaperone
Author: Laura Moriarty
Genre: Fiction
Year: 2012
Acquired: From the publisher for review as part of a TLC Book Tour
Rating: ★★★½☆

One Sentence Summary: A summer in the city chaperoning a wayward teenage starlet becomes the opportunity for a 36-year-old woman to have her own coming-of-age story.

One Sentence Review: The Chaperone sticks out to me because of the unexpected protagonist, an everywoman who learns to push convention in small ways and find what she wants in her life.

Why I Read It: I’ve been on a bit of a historical fiction kick lately, so when I got an e-mail from TLC Book Tours suggesting this book, I thought it sounded like fun. After I accepted, I remembered that enjoyed Moriarty’s debut novel, The Center of Everything.

Long Review: In the summer of 1922, future movie star Louise Brooks, then 15, leaves her home in Wichita, Kansas for New York City to spend the summer training with the Denishawn modern dance company. Her chaperone for the trip is 36-year-old Cora Carlisle, a married mother of grown twin boys with a secret past of her own in New York. The women couldn’t be more different — Louise rejects all trappings of a conventional life, while Cora can’t help but be bound by her choices and her allegiances. But, as might be expected, the summer manages to change both of their lives forever.

The thing I found most fascinating about Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone was the way Moriarty chose to shift the focus of her story away from the expected protagonist — Louise — and on to her chaperone, Cora. In most cases, this summer-in-the-city story would have been a coming-of-age tale for Louise, a young girl in the big city for the first time. Instead, Louise is almost an antagonist in the story, provoking Cora and challenging the older woman at every turn. The Chaperone is really a coming-of-age story for Cora, and I liked that a lot.

Cora, in a lot of ways, reminds me of a sort of everywoman — a person who is living her life the best way she knows how, but feeling uncomfortable at many of the restraints that society puts on her, both physically (corsets) and socially (the terms of acceptable and unacceptable behavior). As she spends her summer in New York, investigating a link to her past and trying to keep Louise safe, Cora gradually opens up and starts to see the world differently. Eventually, she brings that new awareness of herself and society back to Wichita and her old life, continuing to push conventions in small ways.

There’s more to be said about the book than just this one observation, but at this moment it’s what sticks out most to me. The Chaperone won’t be out until June 5, but I hope you’ll consider grabbing a copy if historical fiction like this floats your boat. And, be sure to check out the rest of the reviews as part of this TLC Book Tour for other opinions.

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  • Amanda May 1, 2012, 6:36 am

    I think this would be a fascinating book to read. I love Louise Brooks.

    • Kim May 2, 2012, 7:26 pm

      I bet you’d like it then! The portrayal of Louise isn’t entirely flattering, but I think that would be a cool context anyway.

  • Meg May 1, 2012, 7:29 am

    I can’t tell you how many “summer in New York” books I’ve read, but somehow they still hold limitless appeal for me! I guess it is the coming-of-age aspect that really draws me in, and I’m really excited to read this one. The premise reminds me a bit of Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day.

    • Kim May 2, 2012, 7:27 pm

      Genre kryptonite! I love the coming of age part of those stories too. I’ll have to look for Miss Pettigrew.

  • jennakathepickygirl May 1, 2012, 12:03 pm

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and one of the aspects that still stands out the most to me is how entrenched in society Cora is in the beginning. Though aspects of her life are very very different from her peers, she still buys in hook, line, and sinker. I really enjoyed seeing those changes in her and thought it was a wonderful book.

    • Kim May 2, 2012, 7:27 pm

      Yes, that was a fascinating part of the story for me too. She is so very constricted, it was cool to see her come into herself.

  • trish May 1, 2012, 1:22 pm

    I like the fact that Louise is an antagonist in the story. Something I think about as I get older is that I don’t want to become stuck in my ways or afraid of the newest ways of doing things.

    I’m glad you liked the book! Thanks for being on the tour!

    • Kim May 2, 2012, 7:28 pm

      I liked that too, although it wasn’t what I was expecting at first (which is silly, in retrospect, since the title of the book is The Chaperone…).

  • bermudaonion (Kathy) May 1, 2012, 2:51 pm

    That does sound like an interesting take on the story. I’ve read another one of Moriarity’s books and enjoyed it so I’m anxious to try this one.

    • Kim May 2, 2012, 7:28 pm

      I hope you like it!

  • Lisa May 1, 2012, 9:35 pm

    I just got an email about this one, wondering if it had arrived last week. It didn’t but since I didn’t request it, I wasn’t too worried about it. Now I’m going to have to write back and ask them to send me another copy!

    • Kim May 2, 2012, 7:28 pm

      I hope they will. I thought it was a lot of fun.

  • Trisha May 2, 2012, 7:12 pm

    This sounds like a great read. I love the idea of an unexpected protagonist.

    • Kim May 2, 2012, 7:29 pm

      I do too. I like stories that are about people you wouldn’t normally expect or seem like extras to a bigger story.

  • Christy (A Good Stopping Point) May 3, 2012, 8:01 pm

    Ooh, interesting. I’ve read Moriarty’s Center of Everything (one of my favorite reads in that particular year that I read it) and The Rest of Her Life. So it’s interesting to see that she’s written a historical fiction book, as the two books I just mentioned are set in more recent times.

    • Kim May 13, 2012, 4:24 pm

      I just read The Center for Everything last year and really liked it, although I didn’t connect Moriarty as the author until after I started reading this one. This one is different than The Center…, I’m not sure if I can compare them, but still good.

  • Sheila (Book Journey) May 4, 2012, 7:33 am

    I am on this tour as well and can not wait to dive in. I am trying not to read it too early bust seriously I could always draft the review… why wait? LOL

    • Kim May 13, 2012, 4:25 pm

      Start it! I can’t want to hear what you think.

  • molly spring May 4, 2012, 2:54 pm

    I’m a big fan of Laura Moriarty, and am excited to see something different from her. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

    • Kim May 13, 2012, 4:27 pm

      I hope you enjoy the book. I am going to look for more of Moriarty’s book after this one.