Title: The Chaperone
Author: Laura Moriarty
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Edition: ARCSetting: Kansas and New York City
Source: Shelf Awareness
Date Completed: September/2012
I initially started this book with the audio version, and although I was enjoying the story, I was feeling a bit annoyed by the reader, Elizabeth McGovern's tone, so I actually ended up reading more of the story with the print version. Initial frustrations aside, this was a well done historical novel that held my interest, and was worth sticking with.
In The Chaperone, Cora Carlisle is a 36 year-old housewife from Wichita, Kansas who hopes to start a new life for herself as her son gets ready for college. Her new role is that of a "chaperone" for a 15 year-old star struck dancer named Myra Brooks who will be training at a prestigious dance academy in New York City.
A fictionalized account of the caretaker's role to dancer Louise Brooks, Cora has her hands full early on from the time the two board to train for NYC back in Kansas. Myra is a know-it-all, smart-mouthed teen who is trying to act and behave much older than she is. Although some may suspect this is more Myra's story, it's actually more a story about Cora. A story I found both compelling and pretty fascinating as well.
Cora's early years spent at a Catholic orphanage in NYC, until the time she was sent aboard the "orphan train" to be raised by a farm family in Kansas in the 1920s. Her new life was not that different from that of many children whose families could no longer support them. Like Cora, these children were shipped from crowded cities to rural farmlands, to be raised or adopted by farm families and required to work hard on the family farms. Now as a grown woman she is anxious to find out about her earliest roots to NYC.
Laura Moriarty creates a compelling story, at times both happy and sad. A story about two women who you'll feel like you've become friends with once you finish, because the author does such a good job developing her characters. Told from Cora's perspective, the story covers an awful lot of issues considering the timeline of the novel. From homosexuality, the KKK, racial inequality, women's suffrage, the end of prohibition and even a war, the story never gets dry or boring.
This is a book that should appear to historical fiction fans as well as reader who enjoy stories which cover an array of women's and social issues.