Thursday, November 21, 2019

Audio Book Review: The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction/Audio Book
Pub. Date: June 5, 2012
Publisher: Penguin
Source: Personal Copy
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Goodreads says, "The Chaperone is  a captivating novel about the woman who chaperoned an irreverent Louise Brooks to New York City in 1922 and the summer that would change them both.  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."

The year is 1922 and Cora Carlisle finds her life is at a crossroads.  Her twin sons are grown and away for the summer, her husband is a successful lawyer and is always busy, and Cora is tired of the same old things.  Although her much older husband, Alan, seems like the perfect husband, things aren't as great as they appear at first glance.  So, when Louise Brooks, a young girl in Cora's neighborhood, has the opportunity to attend dance school in New York City, but needs a reliable chaperone, Cora jumps at this opportunity.  Not only will she get to be in exciting New York City, she also has some unfinished business in this city as well.  This business is in regards to her childhood as Cora grew up in an orphanage in New York City. While she was adopted by a nice couple in Kansas, she has always wanted to know the truth surrounding her biological parents.  Perhaps this trip as Louise's chaperone will provide some answers as well as some closure on that end.  However, Louise isn't your average fifteen year old girl.  She is known to be a bit wild, adventurous, and someone who challenges convention. Maybe being Louise's chaperone won't be as easy as Cora had hoped.  The audio book, The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty was a delight; historical fiction fans will enjoy this novel, especially Elizabeth McGovern's narration.

Cora Carlisle, at first glance, appears to be your run of the mill housewife stuck in the conventions of 1922.  However, there's so much more to her in The Chaperone. As her story unfolds and we learn more about her background, I was even more interested in Cora.  Her childhood at the orphanage truly tugged on my heartstrings.  After her adopted parents passed away, she was finding herself in trouble again and one might think that Alan saved her when she needed saving; however, there's so much more to the situation than that.  I also enjoyed the mystery surrounding Cora's birth parents and I appreciated her courage in trying to find out the truth despite all the obstacles in her way. While investigating, she meets Joseph, a janitor at the orphanage, and sparks fly between the two.  I really loved their budding friendship and although Cora is married to Alan, I wanted so much more for her as Alan ended up being a disappointment.

Louise is an equally compelling character in The Chaperone.  Louise Brooks, the famous silent film star, does travel to New York with a chaperone in 1922, so it was interesting how Moriarty invented the character of Cora, but also kept so much factual information in the novel about Louise.  Poor Louise lived during the wrong time period; she would have done very well now. She bobbed her hair, challenged authority, and broke all the conventional rules. I really liked her and her friendship with Cora. I appreciated the fact that both women were before their time and they truly believed in women's rights.  

I am a huge Downton Abbey fan, so I loved that Elizabeth McGovern, who plays Cora on Downton, narrated this audio book.  It was like listening to a friend read a story; I have to say she is now one of my favorite narrators.  Also, I appreciated the fact that the creators of Downton Abbey have made The Chaperone into a movie, which will air on PBS the end of this month.  Cora will be played by Elizabeth McGovern, so that was a nice touch and one that I enjoyed.  

So, if you are looking forward to watching The Chaperone on PBS, I urge you to check out the book or audio book first; historical fiction fans as well as fans of Elizabeth McGovern won't be disappointed. 



  1. I've read this book but I honestly don't remember too much about it! I love listening to a familiar voice on an audiobook!

    1. Me too! It was so nice to have Elizabeth McGovern as the narrator. Thanks for visiting, Angela.

  2. I didn't realize this book is years old! Must be interesting to see the mystery of her adoption unfold.


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