“Louise leaned against her window. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes bright. No matter how she shifted in the window’s light, it seemed to love her face, its angles and its softness, her pale skin framed by the black hair. Cora stared at her grimly. Louise could afford to laugh. She was the beautiful daughter of indulging parents. She believed she was above everyone. Rules didn’t apply to her.” Laura Moriarty, THE CHAPERONE
THE CHAPERONE by Laura Moriarty was issued in paperback by Riverhead/Penguin. I reviewed it when it debuted in hardcover, but I loved it so much I wanted to re-post the review, and encourage fans of historical fiction to read it if you have not already done so.
The book begins in the summer of 1922, when the respectable, thirty-six-year-old Cora Carlisle takes a position as a chaperone to fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks, as she auditions for a dance company in New York. Louise may be young, but with her black bob, red lips, and provocative ways, she is much more worldly than her older companion.
Cora is a complicated woman with a past full of secrets, and she has her own motivations for applying to travel with Louise to New York. When they arrive, Cora finds her job much harder than she imagined. Trying to guide and keep track of her young charge while making discoveries about herself and her past becomes overwhelming, and she nearly loses control on all fronts.
THE CHAPERONE is a brilliant period piece with a captivating plot and cast of characters. Moriarty weaves Cora’s past expertly into her present, and gradually reveals a total picture of Cora, while liberating her from convention. As the title implies, THE CHAPERONE is more about Cora than it is about the young actress, though Louise’s rise and fall are just as fascinatingly portrayed.
Most of the action takes place during the summer of 1922, but the last third of the novel deals with the consequences of that time and the saga of the rest of the lives of Cora and Louise, showing that mere months in our lives can irrevocably change the course of the future.
If you enjoy period novels set in the twenties or strong family drama you will love THE CHAPERONE. It was a bestseller for good reason. If you read it, please let me know what you think.
by Laura Moriarty
Riverhead Trade Paperbacks; June 4, 2013; $16.00