June 29, 2012
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The Chaperone (A) by Laura Moriarty is an exceptional story that really is two stories combined in one. It begins in Wichita, KS where fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks is headed to New York and Denishawn Dance Studio where her career will begin. It has been arranged that Cora Carlisle, a neighborhood wife and mother, will accompany her as “the chaperone”. It is not by chance that Cora heads with Louise to New York. Taking Louise to New York will provide her with the opportunity she has hoped for her entire adult life.
While Louise was born and raised in Wichita, Cora’s beginnings are a bit of a mystery. No one except Cora’s husband know that she arrived in Wichita at five years old via the orphan train that took children from New York to be placed with families along the route. Luckily, Cora was chosen by a family that truly loved and appreciated her.
Chaperoning Louise is very challenging. She is opinionated and rebellious with a very adult like agenda. Louise’s home life is not what it appeared though she had a father and a mother, siblings and a beautiful home; she was unwanted and unloved. She left Wichita and planned never to return.
As Louise dances, Cora searches for clues that would lead her to find her mother and get the answers she has always sought. Along the way, she discovers more than she expected not only about her birth but also about herself.
Fact and fiction are beautifully integrated into this well written novel. Moriarty drives the story with well-researched details about Louise Brooks while creating the intriguing sub-story of Cora Carlisle. With some shocking turn of events, the story develops depth and takes on some very big issues, moral and political, in the 1920s. I loved getting to know about the silent movie star Louise Brooks certainly someone I had never heard of before this. As you all know by now, historical fiction is my favorite and The Chaperone ticked off all the boxes that I look for in this genre. I think that even those who are not historical fiction fans will enjoy this novel as well as I did.