Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Chaperone

Rate this book
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.

367 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2012

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Laura Moriarty

15 books812 followers
Laura Moriarty earned a degree is social work before returning for her M.A. in Creative Writing at the University of Kansas. She was the recipient of the George Bennett Fellowship for Creative Writing at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas. http://www.lauramoriarty.net/bio.htm)

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
14,620 (23%)
4 stars
28,418 (46%)
3 stars
15,246 (24%)
2 stars
2,606 (4%)
1 star
672 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,185 reviews
Profile Image for Alena.
848 reviews219 followers
January 8, 2013
I really liked so much of this book (including Elizabeth McGovern's excellent narration), but it just went on so long. I felt like it had several false endings, places where I was finished but then it kept going.
Maybe the probelm is just that I didn't expect an epic when I began. The story covers almost 50 years of Cora's life in a great deal of detail. And while I find the 20th century interesting background, I was frustrated at Moriarty's need to touch on so many different "issues" -- Prohibition, adoption, gay rights, reproductive rights, suffrage. Add to that, Cora happens to witness or read about dozens of historical events. I began to feel manipulated after a while.
What a I loved was the relationship between Cora and Louise Brooks. I am a sucker for an author using a (notice one) true event and creating fiction from there.
I would have been much more satisfied had she ended the book after their summer together.
Profile Image for Sabrina .
76 reviews45 followers
July 4, 2012
When one reads the name of Louise Brooks on the jacket of a book, one assumes that the book will be filled with tales of the glamorous silent movie star who went to seed too fast but remained proud and arrogant till her death. The fact that the name of the book is The Chaperone hinted to me that the story might involve Louise Brooks’ influencing her dowdy chaperone and introducing her to the big bad (beautiful) world of New York City. That makes for okay reading. Luckily for me, the book in no way took that turn. Instead it focused on the life of Cora Carlisle, a proper married lady from Wichita, who accompanies Louise on her journey to New York but really goes to find truths, freedom, and a broader mind. That’s not including all the things she didn’t count on finding…

On first meeting Cora in the book, one assumes she’s a well-bred woman of society who is happily married, enjoys ladies luncheons and teas, and has a keen eye on the world around her. With Louise being the bubbly, obnoxious, carefree teenager, it was easy to think that Cora would be the stark opposite with a spotless background. As the book progresses, we see Cora’s strengths and, more importantly, her vulnerabilities in marvellous ways. Cora came to Kansas from an orphan house in New York City with no knowledge whatsoever of her real family. Her teenage years were marked by the tragic loss of her adoptive parents and then a wedding to a rich, handsome lawyer. Their marriage, seemingly normal on the outside, had its own hidden tragedies that left me torn and confused for Cora. Moriarty never made her characters all good or all bad, there were two sides to every story and one had to keep reading to find out how they felt. Cora’s whirlwind journey in New York with Louise was only part of the book. The rest is the aftermath, both good and bad, focusing on Cora but with bits of Louise’s shooting success and equally quick and gossip-worthy failures leaking in.

The Chaperone is a moral quandary, an ache for freedom and happiness, and a need to conform to the proprieties of society. It uncovers the fact that everyone has deep secrets which drive their actions. It showcases examples of good parenting, absent parenting, and downright horrendous parenting. It portrays the differences in love and how important certain unforeseen relationships can turn out to be. Most importantly, it confronts truth and the necessity of hiding it for one’s own good. Cora’s character was equal parts practical and spontaneous. The fact that she was almost 22 years older than her charge showcases the differences in generational thinking and how both learned from each other, however reluctantly it might have been. The most beautiful part of it all is that the story is embedded in the world of Prohibition, blacks versus whites, the emergence of the Klu Klux Klan, the ‘obscenity’ of birth control, the glamour of Broadway and finally, World War II. Moriarty takes us back into the 20s, 30s, and 40s with ridiculous ease as she weaves a plot that made me loathe to put the book down for as much as a minute.
Profile Image for  ⊱Sonja•●❤️.
2,069 reviews386 followers
August 18, 2022
Ein großartiges Buch!
Ich muss leider sagen, dass ich bisher erstaunlich wenige Bücher gelesen habe, deren Geschichte in den 1920er Jahren spielt. Ich frage mich, warum!? Diese Zeit war so aufregend und faszinierend, dass ich gerne mehr darüber lesen möchte.
„Das Schmetterlingsmädchen“ spielt in dieser aufregenden Zeit.
Die Protagonistin Cora ist 36 Jahre alt, als sie mit der 15-jährigen Louise Brooks von Wichita in Kansas nach New York aufbricht. Louise wird dort eine Tanzschule besuchen und Cora fungiert als ihre Anstandsdame. Ich mochte beide – Louise und Cora – unheimlich gerne, auch wenn sie wie Feuer und Wasser waren, zwei sehr unterschiedliche Charaktere.
Beide haben sich jedoch im Laufe der Geschichte verändert und eine Entwicklung durchgemacht, die mir bei Cora am deutlichsten aufgefallen ist. Es war schön zu erleben, wie Cora immer mehr aus ihrer „Opferrolle“ herauskam und ihr eigenes Leben lebte.
Der Leser erfährt aus Rückblicken von ihrer Kindheit und begleitet Cora dann bis zu ihrem Tod.
Mich hat die Geschichte von Cora und Louise sehr fesseln können und zudem bin ich neugierig geworden auf weitere Bücher der Autorin. Ihr Schreibstil gefällt mir sehr gut; er ist sehr bildhaft und flüssig.
Profile Image for Jeanette (Ms. Feisty).
2,179 reviews1,898 followers
May 3, 2012
Corsets, yes. Condoms, no. Times are changing in 1922, but repressive attitudes linger. Birth control is for sleazy people. Divorce carries a permanent stigma. Homosexuals are called "sodomites," and face severe consequences if found out. The Volstead Act (Prohibition) is strongly enforced, and abstinence a virtue.

Like most people in Wichita, Cora Carlisle adheres to these conventions out of habit, and fear of being ostracized by the community. Along comes sassy little Louise Brooks. Beautiful, talented, ambitious and brazen. She's ready to take on New York City, but she's only fifteen, so Cora is sent along to make sure Louise maintains the proper decorum. The five weeks they spend together in New York help to launch Louise's career as a silent-film sensation. In more subtle and unexpected ways, the trip serves as a catalyst for changes in Cora's attitudes and lifestyle. Cora is "the chaperone," and this is her story.

Laura Moriarty writes with quiet elegance about the changes in the roles of women and societal norms. She shows not only the contrast between 36-year-old Cora and 15-year-old Louise, but also the differences between Wichita and New York City in that era. Most interesting (and distressing) to me was seeing the way people had to live a lie in the public eye in order to gain a measure of happiness in private. So many things were frowned upon, and often illegal, that people had to feign moral rectitude while taking great risks behind closed doors and curtains.

As far as I know, Cora Carlisle was not a real person, but she serves as an excellent vehicle to carry us through almost 100 years of life. A woman born in the 1880s and living into the 1980s had a lot of adjustments to make as the world changed around her. Cora isn't a particularly exciting person, but the context in which she is placed makes her interesting indeed.

The story has some flaws in pacing, crawling along in some places and fast-forwarding in others. Aside from that, it's written with confidence and subtlety by an author who knows the story she wants to tell and is determined to tell it her own way. I'm glad I went along for the ride.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

Profile Image for Melanie.
268 reviews130 followers
June 26, 2016
First off, I am a sucker for historical fiction. I really, really liked this book! Cora Carlisle (the chaperone) is a great character. I felt as though I knew Cora and was completely wrapped up in her life. There was one twist in the story I didn't see coming :-) The author also piqued my interest in reading more about Louise Brooks, who was certainly a woman ahead of her time! I would highly recommend this one. I've already passed my copy to a coworker.
Profile Image for Madeline.
771 reviews47k followers
March 20, 2015
It's the summer of 1922 in Wichita, Kansas, and thirty-six year old Cora Carlisle is bored. Her twin sons are preparing to leave for college, and she doesn't have anything to do with her time except various charity functions. Then she learns that her neighbor's fifteen year old daughter has been accepted to a summer dance program in New York, and needs someone to accompany the girl as a chaperone. Cora volunteers for the job, but has motives other than just an excuse to get out of Kansas for the summer: Cora's own history began in New York, and she goes there hoping to answer some questions about her past. In the meantime, though, she will stay busy keeping an eye on her charge: headstrong, independent, fifteen year old Louise Brooks, who is only a few years away from becoming a Hollywood superstar.

I picked this up expecting it to be a light, fun romp in the vein of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day - just two ladies being modern and fun and generally having a blast in a pre-WWII setting. What I got was something...pretty different.

It feels unfair to say that the synopsis felt like a bait-and-switch - it's called The Chaperone, after all, so obviously it's going to focus more on Cora than Louise - but it's so Cora-heavy that Louise barely functions in the story at all. Moriarty is obviously more concerned with Cora's story than Louise's, and this is most apparent in the structure of the book. I expected the story to cover just the period that Cora and Louise spent in New York, but instead the book spans Cora's entire life. When she returns to Kansas from New York, what I expected to be a two-or-three page epilogue instead turns into the last 3/4 of the book, as we have to sit through all of Cora's marital drama (turns out that her husband ) and a quick tour of post-Jazz Age American history, and by itself it's interesting, but the problem is that the shadow of Louise Brooks looms over the entire story, and this is to the book's detriment. The problem is that, when given a choice between reading about a movie star in her wild teenage years and a middle-aged woman who lived a pretty unremarkable life, I'm going to choose the former every time. There's nothing wrong with wanting to write a book about an ordinary woman living an ordinary life, but don't trick me into reading it by luring me with the origin story of a Hollywood icon.

That's the big problem with this book - Cora's story can't compete with the one we could be reading, the one about how Louise Brooks left home at fifteen and, by nineteen, had been kicked out of her prestigious dance company for wild behavior. In fact, I almost suspect that Louise Brooks was not featured in the early drafts of this book. I think this started out as the story of a woman who lived in the 1920's and went to New York, and at the later stages an editor or someone was like, "But what if Cora knew someone who became famous later?" and Louise was introduced. If that was the case, it didn't work - I know I said that it's unfair to call the plot a bait-and-switch, but that's what it felt like.

Also Laura Moriarty commits the cardinal sin of historical fiction writing: she lets the research show. Good historic fiction should be well researched, but the reader shouldn't be able to tell - in historic fiction, if the reader can see what research went into the book, it doesn't work.

Every five pages the characters in The Chaperone are like, "Let's talk about how scandalously short the skirts have gotten! My, aren't bobbed haircuts interesting? Say, did you hear about this kooky new group called the Ku Klux Klan?" etc. Worst of all, Moriarty will insert narration into the story to underline the significance of whatever historical info dump she just featured. When two characters discuss the Ku Klux Klan in their town, Moriarty suddenly fast-forwards to when Cora is an old woman and her niece is asking how she could have considered joining, and Cora is like, it was a different time, dear, and it's jarring as fuck. And then Moriarty does it again: in New York, Cora and Louise see a show, and Moriarty jumps in to tell us that oh my god, you guys, did you know that Josephine Baker was working backstage at that show?! It's clumsy and obvious, and reading the book felt, at times, like Moriarty had a list tacked next to her computer titled Important 1920's Events to Cover and was trying to check off as many as she could.

Ultimately, this was a disappointment. Cora Carlisle's story is a good one, and it didn't deserve to be overshadowed so thoroughly by Louise Brooks. At least I got another book to add to my reading list: Lulu in Hollywood, Louise Brooks' autobiography of her career. At least that one will give me the story I wanted to read.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,923 reviews35.4k followers
February 12, 2016
Cora Carlisle is a fictionalized character, as 'The Chaperone', in this story to
Louise's Brooks who in real life was a film actress and dancer who starred in 17 silent films and 8 sound films before she retired in 1938.

Author Laura Moriaty created a really engaging tale about a journey that Louise Brooks & Cora might have taken together to New York. Louise was only 15 years old when she
auditioned for the famous Denishawn Dance Company in 1922
*In read life: Louise did get hired with the company that year as a 15 year old.

For the purpose of this story...all girls underage -no matter how mature or precocious they might be we're not allowed to be on their own.
Coming from Wichita, Kansas, -- all young performers had a chaperone.

Cora Carlisle, was married with twin boys. Her boys were older ( going off to College and no longer needed her in the way young children do).
Cora 'told' her husband she was taking this summer job...( instead of consulting with him).... which provides for a little mystery from the start.
The Brooks would cover all the expenses. ( a little mystery around this family too).

Louise is very self -centered at the start of the book. It's almost no wonder her mother seems happy to send her off - not being the one to take her herself.
Louise is bright, talented, precocious, and will try stretch every possible rule.
She exemplifies the Jazz Age...(flapper girls with bobbed hair)

Cora is matronly, a little predictable, and quietly judges Louise's liberal ways.
There is a reason this story is 'mostly' about Cora..and less about Louise.
Yet..I did look up information about Louise Brooks...( it's only natural to be curious).

When Cora and Louise get to New York...it's Cora that has the biggest growth.
She confronts her past. She was in an orphanage as a child, and was one of the orphans sent west on the Orphan Train. She begins to do research into the orphanage where she stayed looking for answers to questions she has.

Cora and Louise both have secrets in their closets. Things are not all as they seem to be for either one of these women.

The blending of fact and fiction was a perfect dance. This story was enjoyable!
I started out listening to the audiobook...(which was good), but I wanted to speed things along...( I couldn't hike all night long)... so I continued reading a copy of the physical book....( which I've owned for years).

It's fun 'book shopping' in my own house. I'm finding treasures to read without spending a dime!


Profile Image for Cathrine ☯️ .
603 reviews330 followers
February 12, 2016

I would describe this story as a woman’s journey of self-discovery as she is entering a mid-life crisis at the dawn of the twentieth century. A voyage to discover truths about her beginnings which will change the set course of her life as she knows and expects. It will lead to one focused on greater personal fulfillment and meaning rather than other’s expectations or strictures.

Cora is wearing a tight corset during this quest which is mentioned often. It’s uncomfortable constrictions offer a symbolism to all the things about her life that are keeping her confined. Prohibition and widespread lack of sexual information and women’s health mirror the general restrictions and prohibitions women were subject to at the time, especially ones lacking the preferred background pedigree. When she travels to New York as chaperone to a young, rebellious Louise Brooks, her eyes begin to open to the changes coming in society’s mores and challenge her to look beyond her rigidly held beliefs and conventional outlook about what is acceptable and right in her own life.

Cora’s dominant character is complete fiction up against the secondary one of the real-life Brooks. The based-on-fact details of Louise's life add contrast and interest to the changing times during the Gilded Age. I really enjoyed the reading experience, and as often happens in a story like this, I stop and think about how fortunate we modern day women are in progressive countries.
Profile Image for Catharine.
318 reviews6 followers
November 5, 2012
I can't recommend this book to any of my friends.
SPOILER ALERT: There is a bit of a spoiler in the next paragraph.
There are a couple of themes going on in this book. The first is knowing oneself. How do we know who we are? Cora, abandoned as a child, felt compelled to find her birth mother because she thought it would help her to feel complete. Louise, raised by two parents, seemed to have the background that Cora envied. The author did a good job exploring the lives and backgrounds of the two characters and how they found that sense of self, or did not find it.
The other theme was morality. Set in the 20's, morality was black and white. If something was bad that was it, there were no shades of gray. As Cora went through life, those lines began to blur. She was very judgmental in the beginning of the novel and became more aware and accepting as she matured. It was interesting to see the contrast between her and Louise, who because of life's unfairness, had a distinct lack of morality. The "real life" character, Louise, however, had very real consequences for her actions, but Cora, the fictional character, had a better life as she became more accepting of immorality.
I read a review on Goodreads earlier. The reviewer mentioned that the historic information was sometimes put in as an aside; she said, "It was jarring every time" I agree. The author also covered large blocks of time and often it seemed rushed. The book would have been better if Moriarty hadn't tried to cover a lifetime.
On a positive note: Cora's story was very interesting and it really pulled me in. It didn't take me long to read the book.
698 reviews
November 3, 2016
Yuck. Would not recommend this book at all. I would put this book in the category of “I wasted my time [reading it] so you do not have to.” LOL.

This book is loosely historical fiction, but then has modern sensitivities and opinions inserted, like a bait and switch, or a wolf in sheep’s clothing, or any other sort of metaphor or imagery along these lines you may care to use. It purports to be about Louse Brooks (the silent screen star of the 1920s) and her trip to NYC from Kansas City, and how her mother hires a local woman to be her chaperone. The story is told from the point of view of this chaperone. And it goes off on tangents about how chaperone herself was originally from NYC, but was an orphan, sent out on the orphan trains to the Midwest, and was adopted by a farm family outside of Kansas City. So, on this trip back to NYC, she tries to go to the children’s home where she had lived and tries to find information about her birth family.

All of this is fine. Until the book turns, and becomes about a) how chaperone lady’s husband is really gay, and has a longstanding affair with a gay friend of his, and chaperone comes to accept this; b) chaperone lady coexists in the home (in Kansas City, after returning from NYC) with husband and gay lover, and her own lover, a man she has met in NYC and brings back with her. ..so all 4 basically live together, happily ever after; c) author inserts plotlines about Margaret Sanger and birth control and how it will revolutionize the lives of the ladies of Kansas City b/c, like chaperone lady, they can have their true relationships now w/o worrying about getting pregnant. WHAT??

This book is CRAY-CRAY-CRAZY! As one reviewer wrote, Cora (chaperone lady) “starts throwing off previously held beliefs about social conventions at an [unbelievably] alarming rate.”

Avoid.. . .

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,312 reviews659 followers
March 27, 2023
A historical fiction book about a woman who chaperoned Louise Brooks(who becomes a silent movie star and an icon of her generation) to NYC to go to a professional dance studio in 1922. The story spans the early 1900s through the Vietnam War. The chaperone, 36 year old Cora, takes Louise to NYC because she was an orphan who was shipped to Wichita KS when she was 6. Cora wants to find out more about her parents. The 5 weeks they are together transforms Cora. Cora is a traditional, well meaning woman who has "high moral values". She discovers there are shades of grey when in comes to moral values, especially with regard to the Prohibition and sexual mores. Cora becomes more understanding and forgiving and "looser" in her judgements. Cora wants to be a good person, and the trip helps her become one. The book is from Cora's point of view. Louise Brooks is a handful, and has experienced some trauma in her life. A fast read, and very interesting historical fiction of the midwest and some about orphans in the early 1900's. Moriarity is a great writer.
Profile Image for Maria Clara.
976 reviews491 followers
March 21, 2016
Realmente este libro a sido toda una sorpresa! En ningún momento creí que fuera a gustarme tanto, ni a sorprenderme como lo ha hecho. Según la sinopsis, acompañamos por un mes a Cora y a Louise Brooks a Nueva York, pero hacemos mucho más que eso: vemos la prohibición del alcohol, los trenes de los niños sin padres que eran repartidos por todo el país como si fueran ganado, la estricta moralidad de los dorados años 20, amores prohibidos y los prejuicios de la homosexualidad y sus penas...
Profile Image for Crystal Starr Light.
1,346 reviews810 followers
August 17, 2016
Bullet Review:

Parts 1 and 2: 4 stars

Part 3: Negative 80 stars

What a HORRIBLE HORRIBLE end to an actual decent book with a great message and discussion topic.

My recommendation: Don't read past page 285 or read Part 3 if you liked what you were reading in Parts 1 and 2.

Full Review:

The year is 1922 and Louise Brooks of Wichita, Kansas is headed to New York City to dance with the Denishaw group. Cora Carlisle is set to go with her as a chaperone - but Cora wants to go for reasons more than keeping Louise's virtue. Unbeknownst to most people back home, Cora was once Cora X, an orphan child. Now 36, she wants to use the trip to find out who she was - and who she is.

This is the Summer of Love - the Summer I read only books I am pretty sure I will love. And as you can see by the stars hanging above this review, I failed.

The rating isn't entirely fair; for the first 285 pages (parts 1 and 2), I really was enjoying myself. I thought Cora's story was fascinating and I loved how the author gave us information about Cora's past and yet threaded the present-day story too. Of course, I did find it a bit silly as there were loads of historical inaccuracies that threw me out of the story - things like saying that, pre 1920's, teenagers (first known occurrence in 1921) dated several different people, some without parents' knowledge (especially the women), words like "humungous", using the word "emphysema" to talk about a smoking issue in the 1940's when the association wasn't made until 1953, and talking about rape in a very modern fashion. Coupled with the modernisms, there was a distinct lack of 1920's vocabulary, such as "bank's closed", "bee's knees", "cat's meow", "copacetic", or how about a perfect one, "Fire extinguisher" (aka chaperone?!). I get that Cora might be hesitant to use these, but Louise and other characters her age should have been tossing them out!

But for the most part, I could overlook the inaccuracies because the story was fascinating. In the first two parts, Cora is a very stodgy, prudish, opinionated woman. Girls had to be kept pure, hemlines should cover the ankle, and alcohol was deplorable. But slowly, we realize her story: her yearning to know where she came from, to see someone that looks like her, to find real joy in her life, to release desire and passion she can't find in her marriage. She starts to see how things that she thought were horrible may not actually be so bad - the contrast of Cora's corset to Louise's brief dresses rings true.

And then Part 3 happens. Part 3 whisks us from 1922 to 1982 in a mere 80 pages in the most slapshod, helter-skelter, flim-flam method I could see. Instead of the author focusing on one time, on a set of characters and fleshing them out, we have to speed through years and decades - and upon reaching the end, I'm still not sure what the point is that could not have been said in a couple of page epilogue.

Here be spoilers:

Part 3 DESTROYED this book for me. Part 3 RUINED the greatness of the earlier book. Part 3 ANNIHILATED the moral, the theme, the MEAT of this book.

Not to mention, after reading this book, why the flying frak was Louise Brooks the girl Cora chaperoned? Other than being a convenient outlet for the author to info dump all her research, there was no reason it had to be Louise Brooks instead of "fill in the blank spunky young teenager". Louise Brooks had almost no influence on Cora, other than being a way for Cora to go to New York and find her mother. And certainly, in that horrible Part 3, all that happened was the author regurgitating a bunch of Louise Brooks notes and research on the page.

This book was a MASSIVE DISAPPOINTMENT. This book could have been an enlightening book about a woman's discovery of life and self, and instead it took the beautiful theme it started with and destroyed it. It took what had been so beautifully crafted in Parts 1 and 2 and negated it in the end. This book would have earned full 4 stars without Part 3; it was so gripping and enchanting, a fascinating look at a woman's discovery at a time when being a woman sucked. But I cannot in good conscious rate this book anything higher than 2 stars because of the horrid ending.

Should you choose to read this, stop before you get to Part 3. You'll only regret reading it.

ETA: I note a lot of negative reviews seem to go, "Cora is immoral and this book applauds being immoral. It's hateful of traditional/Christian values and mores". This is NOT WHY I don't like the book. I didn't dislike the book because of a gay character (which, yes, they were hidden back in the 1920's). I didn't dislike the book because Cora took a lover. I didn't dislike the book because Cora supported birth control.

I disliked the book because the ending made no sense. I disliked the book because I felt it totally twisted Cora into a modern woman whose life experienced no challenges even with the very "controversial" things in it - the gay husband, the acceptance of birth control, the lover. Her husband stays closeted and respected. Her lover is never discovered, even with the slapshod cover story. She speaks out about condoms and none of the women ostracize her, even if they firmly don't agree.

I disliked the book because the entire third part was just a fly-by of every American social highlight in the last 60 years. It didn't spend time like the first two parts in really creating characters and a scene - it was more important to whisk through time for some reason than to craft an ambiance, to spend time in ONE ERA with a set of characters, SHOWING us who they are. Who is Greta? Who is Joseph? Who is Walt and Earle and Howard? What about their wives? We never know. We don't get to see these people, to interact with them, because it's more important to briefly talk about World War II or have a random niece mention how bad calling black people "coloreds" are or a silly story about a dentist that was infatuated with Josephine Baker (though can you blame him - she was frakking talented!).

I actually thought Cora taking a lover made sense. I actually thought the closeted gay husband also made sense - I just hated the blackmail execution (wouldn't it have been cooler had Cora grown to accept it and WANT to keep his secret because of her love?!).

It's not the question of morality that bugged me; it was the silly execution.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,697 reviews1,478 followers
April 7, 2021
The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty is a book of historical fiction. The central character, the chaperone referred to in the title, is the fictional character Cora X, a child brought out to Kansas on an orphan train. Her name will become Cora Kaufman after adoption and then after marriage Cora Carlisle. The story opens when she is thirty-six, living in Wichita, married and the mother of twins. With the twins to be gone working on a farm over the summer, Cora grabs at the chance of seeking out her biological mother while chaperoning the fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks in New York City. Over the summer, Louise will be studying at the Denishawn School of Dance. The year being 1922 and Louise being who she is, a chaperone is needed. That Cora is an orphan train child is a secret, one of the many secrets around which the story circles.

Louise Brooks is not a fictional character. She is real.

“Louise Brooks (1906-1985) was an American film actress and dancer during the 1920s and 1930s. She is regarded today as a Jazz Age icon and as a flapper sex symbol due to her bob hairstyle that she helped popularize during the prime of her career.”
(Source: Wiki)

Louise is a handful—both here in the story and in real life. Just as the title indicates, the story’s central focus is Cora rather than Louise, but the two influence each other. Past events in the lives of Cora and Louise are covered in flashbacks. The book skims over the events of the century too—orphan trains, flappers and suffragettes, the Ku Klux Klan, bootlegging and the Prohibition, the dust storms, the Stock Market Crash and the Depression, the Second World War, the growth of the civil rights movement and gender equality. Cora lives into her nineties. Her family grows to include children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. We are told also of Louise’s fate.

Every topic brushed upon is presented from what we today consider the politically correct viewpoint. Will this be entertaining for you? I find it too simplistic.

A central question the book revolves around is if it is best to keep secrets hidden. Secrets are kept hidden, year after year after year. I find this unrealistic.

That a person should not be judgmental is the message delivered. On this I agree, but honestly, is there anyone who would disagree?!

Elizabeth McGovern narrates the audiobook very well. The melody and tone of her voice is a pleasure to listen to. Soothing, but also clear, and never overdramatized. Four stars for the audio narration.

This story reads as a fictional story. It doesn’t feel real to me!
Profile Image for Karina.
803 reviews
January 18, 2021
The story is set in 1922 in Wichita, Kansas. It is the story of Cora Carlisle, a friendly neighbor, chaperoning Loiuse Brooks to New York for the famous school of dance Denishawn.

I liked this more than I thought because of the twists in Cora's marital life. I thought she was just another rich snotty lady but she had her reasons for being the way she was. She had a hard time with Brooks due to her anger issues and viciousness. Brooks was not an easy person to like even with all that beauty.

Louise Brooks was a real life actress and I Googled her while reading this. She had a large career in the silent films. She hung out with William Randall Hearst, Marion Davies, etc. The novel only touched on her fame and Hollywood life slightly through the town people and gossip. Upon going on Wikipedia I suddenly wished the novel had been about her and her life. The novel touched lightly on her personality and her personal anguishes like getting raped at an early age, battling with alcohol addiction, and having suicidal tendencies. Her career fell apart when the walkies came and then worsened after her two divorces.

Anyway, this is a novel worth reading and I liked the time frame. I am glad it wasn't a chick-lit. I enjoyed Cora's story and just when I felt sorry for her she came up and made her own choices and lived in a way that made her happy in the end.

3 stars due to dragging on at times and it went on too long at the end. It started Cora in her early 30s and went up to her death which was a bit too much.
Profile Image for Joy D.
1,784 reviews213 followers
November 2, 2020
Fictionalized account of the woman who accompanied fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks (the future silent film star) to New York in 1922. Thirty-six-year-old protagonist Cora Carlisle desires to find out more about her birth parents, after coming to Kansas on an orphan train. The plot follows their trip to New York and the subsequent events in their lives. It is based on a true story.

I liked Cora's backstory - it was nice to see an orphan treated well by her adopting family. The author inserts social issues of the time, such as Prohibition and women's suffrage, which add to the historic flavor. The primary drawback is similar to many other historical fiction books I have read. The attitudes of the people are portrayed as more contemporary than the era warrants. Cora's actions, especially pertaining to a man she meets in New York, seem out of character. I liked the idea of the book more than its execution. I understand this book was made into a movie by Masterpiece Films.
Profile Image for Marci.
594 reviews
April 23, 2013
This was supposed to be a triumphant, even inspiring story. I found it neither. It was sad and cautionary to me.

I'm not recommending this to my friends unless you really want to have an imaginative glimpse into the summer that rebellious, free-thinking 15-year-old Louise Brooks went to New York. That part was written pretty well and draws you into the life of the "chaperone," Cora Carlisle, the fictional character of the title.

The pacing afterwards was extremely uneven to the point of being off-putting.

What was more off-putting for me was the development of Cora's amorality--she starts out as a pretty conventional woman, and her change to one who not only accepts but participates in what at the time was viewed as immoral behavior with no psychological repercussions struck me as unbelievable, particularly as it apparently developed in an extremely short time. It felt like a propaganda piece for modern tolerance of all forms of behavior, but if Cora could have a fairy tale ending, Louise certainly paid the price for her bad choices, and given that hers is the real, historical character, hers is a cautionary tale that undercuts Cora's with an irony too thick for this book to withstand.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
840 reviews
January 11, 2015
I’d had this on my TBR list for a couple of years, and can’t even remember why I added it, but it was an enjoyable read.

I’m not sure whether I should admit to not having known who Louise Brooks was - she was a famous film star in the early to mid-20th century, and Laura Moriarty has woven a story around her and the summer she went to New York to attend Denishawn, a famous dance studio, with a chaperone.

I did some googling of Louise Brooks while I was reading this. I don’t know whether she definitely had a chaperone at this time (in the book, she was only 15, so I would have assumed she’d need some kind of guardian, if that was her true age), but the story was very cleverly done. Louise was not the main character, but aspects of her real life were included in this fictional account of the main character - Cora Carlisle, the chaperone - who started out as rather prim and proper but became much more forgiving and tolerant as the story progressed. I did, however, feel sorry for her in her role as chaperone to Louise - no doubt I also would have come across as prim and proper when challenged with Louise’s defiance of conventions! I also felt sorry for her when we found out more of her back story.

There was an aspect of the story which involved the orphan trains sent out from New York into the Midwest, which has now made me want to read Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline!
Profile Image for Becky.
588 reviews102 followers
January 29, 2015
I have had this book on my shelf for ages, so glad I finally decided to read it.
The book tells the story of Cora,( fictionalized) from her childhood on up. As an adult in Wichita, Kansas, she has the opportunity to be a chaperone in NYC, to a 15 year old girl, Louise Brooks, who became a real life silent film star.
It is really 2 stories in one, we follow Cora & her life & what is was like for women at this time in history, I enjoyed that very much. It talked about what they had to wear, about birth control, what they were allowed to talk about, etc-very interesting.
The 2nd, smaller part of the story was about Louise, she comes & goes throughout the book.
Great book, interesting little segment of history(the orphan trains!) & all the changes that happened in that era, exciting times!
Profile Image for Jane.
820 reviews610 followers
January 21, 2013
I’m usually wary of novels, set in a period within living memory, that use real people, who lived and breathed, as characters, but there was something about this book that called me. And I’m very glad I did.

And, of course this isn’t the story of Louise Brooks, silent movie icon; it is the story of one woman who crossed paths with her in one summer that would change both of their lives.

It opens in the early 1920s, the in Wichita, Kansas, where housewife Cora Carlisle has undertaken to act as chaperone to the teenage Louise Brooks, who is heading to summer dance school in New York. At first it seems to be a study in contrasts: Cora is conventional, prim, proper, and always aware of proprieties, while Louise is headstrong, confident and determined to experience everything the world has to offer. But it soon becomes clear that the truth is more complicated than that; that Cora had quite unexpected reasons for wanting to come to New York, and that there was much more to Louise than it had first appeared.

Laura Moriarty handles all of this very well. Her words feel right and are so easy to read that I always felt safe in the hands of a very capable storyteller. She brings the period, in both the small town and the big city, to life. And she weaves in so many themes – racial segregation, prohibition, sex and sexuality, family and identity – in a way that seems completely natural and right.

But I am wary of saying too much, because I think the developments that moved the story forward and developed the characters are best enjoyed first hand. They sometimes took me by surprise but they always made perfect sense.

It was lovely to watch Cora’s journey; so many of her opinions and attitudes changed as she saw more of the world, and as I saw this and as I learned more of her history I grew to like, and admire, her more. She began as an unremarkable small town housewife, but as the story unfolded she became even interesting than her young charge.

When the summer in New York drew to a close Cora made an extraordinary decision. The story should maybe have ended there, it would have been a wonderful ending, it would have left so much to think about. But it didn’t.

A shorter second act carried the story forward, through the rest of Cora’s life. The contrast between Cora, who defies convention but keeps up appearances, and Louise, who in unconcerned about either, is fascinating but there are problems. The years rush by, there are none of the intriguing questions that underpinned the first act, and thought the story is plausible – and Louise’s real life has clearly been well researched – it is a little more difficult to believe that what went before.

It said much that was interesting, and I was fascinated to see the future unfold, but it wasn’t quite as strong as what had gone before. Maybe a simple afterword would have worked better.

But I still have to say that The Chaperone is a gem: a wonderfully readable story of two fascinating women with much to say about their lived and their times.
Profile Image for Noeleen.
188 reviews132 followers
January 4, 2013
Duh! I'm embarrassed to say that I didn't realise until towards the end of this book that Louise Brooks was a real person. So once I finished reading, I spent another hour or so looking up information on the web about Louise, old photographs, articles and videos. I love when a book directs me towards something new and interesting that I didn't know about before.

I found The Chaperone a really good page turner of a story, not a story pre-dominantly about Louise Brooks but about Cora Carlisle, Louise's chaperone for a few weeks in New York. I really loved Cora's story and her character. Her tale and experience was both sad and encouraging. What a strong character she turned out to be, although I did find that at thirty-six she acted and behaved years older than her age, I guess this was a sign of the times.

Louise also had a sad story although she never appeared to learn from her experience or redeem herself. I couldn't help but be reminded of some young famous actors and actresses today and how we see them splattered in a bad light, across the pages of magazines, as a result of their behaviour. I guess fame and fortune will always have its price and some will never learn to appreciate the opportunity they have been given, no matter whether it's in the 1920's or in the present day. Whilst Louise's behaviour shocked for the times she lived in, similar behaviour appears to be the norm in today's society and we appear to have grown to just accept it and take it for granted. I wondered just how scandalous Louise's behaviour would actually be considered today.

Initially I thought that Cora and Louise were exact opposites of one another but upon reflection, I'm not too sure that this is the case. I think they both had a lot to learn from one another and both perhaps craved each others courage.

The Chaperone really tried to deal with so many issues which affected both men and women during this era; societal values, expectations, restrictions, behaviours and morals of the times. What a difficult time it must have been to try and live a lifestyle choice appropriate and suitable to one's own personal preferences, outside the barriers of societal norms. What a difficult time it must have been for a child on the train not knowing where they would end up.

This was a well written book with a really good story. I think perhaps the book may have tried to deal with too many issues at once. There was a lot to consider and digest but overall I think Laura Moriarty did a very good job of linking it all together.
Profile Image for John.
2,008 reviews197 followers
November 21, 2020
One of those books I didn't want to end, so looked forward to my daily hour (or so) of listening. Outstanding audio narration made the experience even more special; Elizabeth McGovern managed to differentiate voices perfectly.

Not really a spoiler, but wanted to advise that that story is essentially divided in three parts: Cora's childhood and early marriage; New York with Louise Brooks; life after the trip. Difficult to discuss specifics without spoilers, since it's the periodic reveals that make things so engaging. So, I'll try to give an idea of what to expect, vague though that may be...

Cora was adopted as a girl by a Kansas farm couple. When she tells Louise it's her first trip out of Kansas, that's technically true, but not the whole truth. Her early life was, shall we say, quite circumscribed so that Kansas is where she began interacting with society. Her eventual husband enters the picture, where Cora learns to adapt in ways she could not have foreseen. And then, it's off to New York for Part Two...

Here we meet Louise, who's every bit as precocious as expected, brutally honest. She manages to shock the sheltered Cora more than once, but for those reading the book specifically for her presence, she's offstage much of the time (although her scenes are key ones). Basically, this section involves Cora facing her past: she gets answers to much of the unknown, but resolution? Eventually yes, but at the time not so much. Circumstances change so that Cora returns to Kansas early without Louise... but not alone.

Part Three has to do with Cora's putting her experiences into a modern world, best way to put it. Some readers may find things, contrived or preachy, but by the 30s society had truly changed. For one thing, though Kansas remained a dry state, Prohibition was seen as a failure. Cora's personal life changes significantly after New York as well, though spoilers needed to go there. And yes, Louise makes a re-appearance at a time when little "shocks" Cora by then.

What makes this story so much of a success has to do with the author's ability to "show" not "tell" (as they say in the writing biz): her adoptive mother's handling of Cora's rejection at school, thd flowers left behind in New York, and Cora's frustration at her husband's funeral at parties being forced to play roles. Speaking of which, she becomes what I'd call "quietly feminist" in an era where that proved effective.

Very Highly Recommended!
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,121 followers
February 14, 2015
An interesting historical read about Cora who becomes a chaperone for a fifteen year old Louise Brooks for 5 weeks one summer in NYC where she seeks out and finds the sad truth of her past and finds happiness for her future. The book addresses many difficult issues of the times spanning from 1922 thru the 1970's such as prohibition, homosexual relationships, unwed mother's with unwanted children, segregation, and use and advertising of contraceptives.

I must admit that I had no knowledge of silent film star Louise Brooks prior to reading this book, and although the plot seemed to drag a bit in the beginning, I really enjoyed the book on the whole especially the interesting life of character Cora.

Profile Image for Millicent Fitzgerald.
6 reviews44 followers
April 7, 2018
I really enjoyed this book. This is the first book I've read by this author. I thought it was really neat how the author put together true facts about the actress Louise Brooks but also added to the story so that it was a mix of fiction and biography. It gives you a sneak peak into how her life was like. It also takes place in the 1920's which I also really liked because I love old Hollywood. The book goes into depth about each characters personality and life. Louise was a headstrong and determined girl with a rebellious streak and I found her character to be inspiring. There were some sad parts in this book but all in all I thought it was a really good read and very descriptive, I would recommend this book to anyone who likes the 1920's or reading about other peoples lives.
Profile Image for Moonkiszt.
1,992 reviews208 followers
September 20, 2020
Sometimes the best thing to do is to put two very different people together and great things can happen. . .

Louise Brooks, spoiled and untameable - Cora Carlisle, a housewife, proper and prim - an entertaining read, where they both learn something from each other. I liked it, googled a lot about Louise thereafter to see what was true and what was fiction. By the end of it all, I felt sorry for Louise for all the ways her arrows missed the bullseye, and I liked the fictional Cora - wondering what the real chaperone would have thought of her fictional counterpart.

Felt a little unsatisfying, with Cora outshining all and she's not even real. But isn't that what fiction is all about? Things that make you go "hmm."

3 stars.
Profile Image for Lauren.
178 reviews10 followers
November 26, 2012
As a disclaimer I will say I read this whole book on one long plane ride, so that may have made me like it less than I would normally. It was an exciting plot and I was never bored, however some things really bothered me:

1) I could not believe the main character at all. For one thing she went through a 180 in her personal beliefs all because of Louise and Mary O'Whatever...both of whom were obnoxious and unenjoyable. I had a REALLY hard time believing her relationship with Joseph. And why did she even go to NYC with Louise in the first place? She has a wealthy husband at her command, she could just ask him to pay for her trip.

2) Louise Brooks did not need to be in this book. She was an interesting side character but I think her name and image were just used to create interest, she didn't carry the story at all.

3) Occasionally the author would switch from her POV to talk about the history of the situation. It felt lecture-y and unnatural.

4) After reading this book I had a very clear view of the authors political views on some women's rights issues. It's not that I don't agree with her, but it was distracting from the story.

That being said, I'm not sorry to have read the book and it was a quick, interesting read. I probably won't recommend it.
Profile Image for B the BookAddict.
300 reviews655 followers
March 16, 2015

The blurb of this novel actually misleads readers, in my opinion. The story merely skims life of the legendary Louise Brooks, 1904-1985, dancer and actress, the woman who popularised bobbed hair. It is instead the story of Cora X, later Cora Kaufman, finally Cora Carlisle, a woman who broke all the rules in her own quiet way and went on to live the life she so richly deserved. A 3.5★ novel.
Profile Image for Dale Harcombe.
Author 14 books292 followers
January 19, 2021
In 1922 Cora Carlisle is offered the chance to travel from Wichita to New York as chaperone for 15 year old Louise Brooks. Louise is looking for the opportunity to join the prestigious dance school and from there to make her name in New York. But this is not really Louise’s story, even though in real life Louise Brooks did go on to be a silent movie star, something which I knew nothing about till reading this book. Instead, it is really Cora’s story. Cora grew up in New York at the Home for Friendless Girls. Cora plans to use this trip in the hope that it will help her uncover the truth about her past. Set primarily in the early twenties, this is an interesting story as Cora discovers more than she expected about her past and about love.
The main character of Cora evoked sympathy from this reader for several reasons. Hers has not been an easy life in many ways. Though it may appear conventional after she marries Alan, her life is far from what she imagined. I enjoyed this story without ever being totally enthralled by it. The longer it went on the more the author seems to fill in years very quickly with a lot of telling rather than letting scenes play out.
An entertaining enough read, It is more a study of the characters and the restrictions of society at the time in many areas of life. That is an interesting look at how society has changed its attitudes over the years. It was only after I finished reading the book I looked up Louise Brooks and found out more about her and her silent movie career.
Profile Image for JoAnne Pulcino.
663 reviews58 followers
February 20, 2013

Laura Moriarty

A captivating and thoroughly enchanting novel of two very diverse women and their impact on each other that will affect their lives greatly.

In the summer of 1922 the stunningly beautiful fifteen year old Louise Brooks sporting her soon to be famous black bob and blunt bangs wants to leave Wichita, Kansas to study dance at the Denishawn School of Dance. Against her will, her family decides their willful, arrogant daughter cannot go without a chaperone.

Cora Carlisle a traditional wife and mother with a haunting agenda of her own in New York, agrees to accompany Louise. The clash of their personalities and different generations makes for a rocky road, but they both profit from their differences. Louise will go on to become a world famous silent film star, a madcap and unrestrained icon of her generation.

A surprisingly intriguing story line in the book is the secret lives and deceits that exist in the lives of the characters. Ms. Moriarty’s skill in her treatment of the same lies and deceits is nothing short of masterful.

The novel is rich in the history of the changing mores of society at that time. The subjects covered are everything from Prohibition, orphan trains, flappers, the Great Depression and the growing movement for equal rights. That pretty much covers the vastness of this wonderful book.

Profile Image for Nancy.
371 reviews2 followers
January 20, 2016
I loved this book! The story is compelling and the message is amazing. The biggest part of it is set in the 1920s and 1930s in the Midwest and in New York City. It personified an era of strict morals and a stratified society during a period of change. Through strong female characters, Cora and Louise, each crying out for change in her own way and within her own societal- and self- imposed boundaries for behavior, we see how transitions between eras are not without bumps. By layering my current freedom as a woman upon the way I was brought up during the restrictive and changing morals of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, and the oppressive society illuminated in this book, it becomes clear that change first comes from within the minds and actions of brave individuals.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 6,185 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.