Wednesday, June 26, 2013

THE CHAPERONE by Laura Moriarty

Cora Carlisle lives in Wichita, KS, during the 1920s with her handsome attorney husband Alan.  Her twin sons are grown, but still it seems odd that she would volunteer to chaperone Louise Brooks, a beautiful, bratty, manipulative teenaged dance student in New York.  Much to my amazement, Louise Brooks was a real silent film star, and her part of the story is based on fact.  Although a neighbor did accompany Louise on her real-life trip to New York, Cora's story is pure fiction.  As the novel unfolds, we realize that Cora is taking advantage of a golden opportunity to discover her roots, and there's more to her home life than meets the eye.  The trip is a journey of discovery for both women—completely different in age and demeanor but able to glean some pearls of wisdom from one another.  Cora's passage from a prudish, fortyish housewife to a champion of unwed mothers and birth control is perhaps a little too predictable.  The events in between are not so predictable, but neither are they particularly believable, either.  I don't want to divulge too much here, but suffice it to say that her personal life is a complete masquerade, to some degree before the NYC trip but even more so afterwards.  I came to wonder, not only if people were going to find out what was really happening in the Carlisle household, but also whether they might already have their suspicions but respected Cora too much to bring it up.  Her secrets are not the kind that people get away with now, much less back then, when propriety was so much more narrowly defined.

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