The Chaperone
March 31, 2016 7:40 PM - by Laura Moriarty - Subscribe

"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. ... [W]hile what she finds isn’t what she anticipated, she is liberated in a way she could not have imagined. "

This is the April book for the Historical Fiction Book Club. Remember that FanFare posts don't close and you can continue to discuss prior books (if it takes you a while to get around to them) for as long as you'd like!

NYTimes: "“The Chaperone” gets better as Ms. Moriarty lets Cora grow some backbone, talk straight and reach out for what she really wants. It also makes her a very decent person. In a book that involves a number of teenage mothers and unwanted children, she finds ample opportunity to repay the kindnesses done to her in those Cora X days."

WaPo: "In “The Chaperone,” Moriarty gives us a historically detailed and nuanced portrayal of the social upheaval that spilled into every corner of American life by 1922. New York may have offered dazzling experimental theater, but living conditions for most residents were gritty and squalid. Women’s magazines and films promoted sexual freedom, but Margaret Sanger’s birth-control clinics were outlawed. Suffragettes such as Cora believed Prohibition was a means to ending poverty, when, in fact, it gave rise to crime and alcoholism. Above all, rebels like Louise Brooks, despite the personal cost, emboldened women of all ages and classes to upend their conventional lives."

LitLovers Discussion Questions
posted by Eyebrows McGee (1 comment total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This is a little less literary than most of the books we've done in historical fiction book club, but the author does a great job painting a vivid picture of the era -- both in New York City and in Wichita. And while I thought the plot was a little weak, I was fascinated by the account of the family Cora chooses to construct after her NYC trip, and how that would work out in pre-war Wichita.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:22 PM on April 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

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