Book Review of The Chaperone: 2 Treasure Boxes
Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; First Edition edition (June 5, 2012), Hardcover: 384 pages, ISBN-10: 1594487014, ISBN-13: 978-1594487019
It’s 1922 and women have only recently received the right to vote, so when a young dancer has the opportunity to go to New York City to study her craft, she needs a chaperone. Cora Carlise, an unhappy, middle aged woman with a secret past, decides to accompany the girl. In the process she finds what she has been seeking all her life.
Ms. Moriarty has written several novels, but The Chaperone is her first book in the historical fiction genre, it is also a drama. The story is told in a third person narrative from the point of view of the main protagonist, Cora Carlisle.
The character of Cora, a middle aged woman and the chaperone of a wild and troubled fifteen year old girl, was really well developed. I also liked how Ms. Moriarty tied in Louise Brooks, but I would have liked more insight into Louise’s character. The story was primarily about Cora and spanned over her entire life with details sprinkled in a non-linear fashion. This made the story more interesting because her upbringing and experiences were slowly revealed. Cora was my favourite character, at first I thought she was stuffy, yet she showed her true self right at the beginning when she convinced her friend that the KKK was to be avoided. I thought that she blossomed as the book unfolded. She had many hardships that she had to deal with, but she dealt well with everything that she faced. She seemed at times to be judgemental, but as the story progressed she softened up. The subject matter was surprising, because it touched on homosexuality as well as child molestation. The story was nothing like I was expecting, but it pulled me in from the beginning, and I was never really sure where it would lead.
There were several surprises as the story unfolded. I also found the facts about the orphan trains surprising as well as upsetting. To think of all those little children, in the first half of the century, just sent off without any consideration of the people who were picking them or what kind of lives they would have to lead. It also made me think about why there were so many orphans, but I guess the combination of the great wars, the influenza breakout, and the great depression, caused many children to be left without parents.
This book fell somewhere between good and really good, and I gave it a 2 Treasure Box rating although I enjoyed the book, I was not obsessed with it, and had no problem putting it down
“Show me a mother with that much thwarted ambition, and I’ll show you a daughter born for success” (page 111.)
I just thought that this was an interesting quote about Hollywood mothers.
“As young as Lousie was, she was a grown woman, a modern woman, smart and fearless of judgement, a lovely sparkle on the blade of her generation as it slashed at the old conventions” (page 302.)
I loved this sentence, I thought it beautifully written and I loved the idea of cutting away the old conventions, which oppressed women.
Question to consider: Was this book an accurate portrayal of women during the 1920s? For example, Cora was afraid to show her own husband affection for fear that he would think her forward.
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One thought on “The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty”
It is hard to imagine today that a woman would be afraid to reach out to her husband for physical contact for fear of being considered a loose woman. But back then, it was a real concern. In fact even as late as the 1940’s my own grandmother would not undress in front of my grandpa.