(Review) The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
Publisher: Riverhead Books/Penguin Group.
Genre: Fiction, 1920s, culture and society standards.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.
Link @ Amazon, Kindle price is $9.76.
I bought my copy @ the bargain table @ Barnes and Noble for $5.98.
Laura Moriarty website.
Cora Carlisle has agreed to chaperone fifteen year old Louise Brooks (later became an actress in films) to New York City in the summer of 1922. They live in a small Midwest town. Cora is a middle-age married woman. Her twin sons are in college. Her husband is a respected attorney. Louise is the eldest daughter. She has three younger siblings. Their mother is beautiful and talented. However, she is uninterested and indifferent to her children. Her husband is also an attorney. The two families at first site are as different as night and day. As the story progresses the reader will find parallels. The summer of 1922 will bring about change for both Cora and Louise. Lifelong change.
This is a story that creates conversation.
The story is based in the 1920s, but many of the themes are carried over into our era. Themes such as birth control, marriage and family, liberal and conservative, race relations, prejudice, sexual standards, morality, abandonment, child abuse, adoption, and homosexuality.
Neither Cora nor Louise are Christians. Both of them have attended church for different reasons, but neither have a belief in God that they adhere or have faith in. For Cora, attending church is what she has always done, it's a society expectation. I wanted to make this statement because it is a valid point. Later in the story when Cora makes a change in her life, her reason for hiding "it" is not because she is ashamed or feels a guilt, but because the society and culture standards of her time would ostracize her and family. Louise is a person that has not grown up with standards, anything goes for her. If something feels good or right she proceeds. She cares little for standards. What holds her back at this point in life is age and financial independence.
I found it interesting that Cora on some level is ashamed of her choice, because she hides "it" from her adult children. I guess another reader would see that Cora is only trying to protect her adult children. However, I think she knows her life is different, yet it is a compromise for happiness.
Cora's life is shown till old age. On this point the book is more an epic of Cora's life. The synopsis in the front flap cover led me to believe the focus is on 1922 and Cora chaperoning Louise Brooks. The book became more about Cora's life and choices.
I don't want to give away and ruin the story for someone who has not read it. The choice for Cora does not involve homosexuality. This element is at work in The Chaperone. There is nothing written that is crude. Some readers would not want to even read a book that has this element in the story.
What I loved about the story is contrasting elements. However, I thought there were too many elements. A couple of them would suffice. It is a busy story.
It is hard to not like Cora. She is a likable person. She has lived a life without real steadfast meaningful love. The book made a point of telling me she had not suffered in the early childhood years. I don't believe this. Her choices and insecurities showed me otherwise.
I read The Chaperone in one day. It is a well-written story. I felt an investment in Cora. I did not like everything about the story. I did not agree with Cora's choice. But I'm not Cora nor have I lived the life she lived. I think this is the number one point of what the author is trying to make: people make choices in life that only they can truly understand and not another human.