Book Review: The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

the chaperone 001Different.  And it almost works.

Cora, a thirty-six year old woman from Wichita, Kansas, is
asked to be a chaperone for Louise Brooks.  Louise is fifteen
years old, a dance student, and wants to go to New York to
study dance.  (New York! New York!)

Louise is difficult to manage, with a reputation of wildness,
and tending to attract attention to the wrong kinds of men.
But Cora accepts the job because she has reasons of her own
for going to New York.  Her husband, Alan, has no objections
and off they go.

The time is the 1920s, Prohibition is in,  New York delights
Louise and she does well at progressing in dance.  Cora has the
days to herself and she tries to find out her own history–she
had been left with the nuns at an orphanage at a very young age.

A maintenance man, the janitor at the orphanage, helps her to
gain office records and they become friends and Cora is grateful
to him and is glad to have someone to talk to.  She is lonely for
her usual pleasant life in Wichita with her social activities.

When Louise’s study time is up, it’s time to go back home, but
Louise stays in New York.

(Spoiler alert . . .)

I’m afraid you’ll find this part hard to believe, but Joseph, the
maintenance man goes back to Wichita to live with Cora (!)–
she tells him she has a big house, plenty of room, –and she
passes him off as her long lost brother.  HA HA HA!   Yeah, right.

Well, to sum up, there really was a Louise Brooks and this is sort
of the story of her life, too, but we drop her pretty much half way

There is quite an emphasis on how women’s lives WERE back in
those days—and it’s spoonfed to us so we’ll notice—-wearing
corsets, having no birth control products and so forth.  Edith
Wharton’s “The Age of Innocence” is mentioned just a mite too
many times . . .

I found it an uneven read and almost put it down but Moriarty
managed to keep the ball rolling.  (What? the husband what?)
Did you read it?  What did you think?

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