Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Chaperone; Laura Moriarty



Title: The Chaperone
Author:  Laura Moriarty
Publication Year: 2012
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Edition: ARC
Setting:  Kansas and New York City
Source: Shelf Awareness
Date Completed: September/2012
Rating: 4/5 
Recommend: yes 
 
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.

20 comments:

  1. Good review. I'm curious why you didn't like Elizabeth McGovern's narration though?

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    1. Hi Carin....Her somewhat British accent just seemed annoying and just wrong to me for these characters from Kansas and later in NYC.

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  2. I listened to this one - really enjoyed it!

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  3. I am SO glad you mentioned that you didn't like Elizabeth McGovern as narrator. I thought she was just wrong for the entire story. I listened to the entire book but really struggled to overlook her affected accent to concentrate on the story itself. I definitely would have enjoyed it more had I read it in print.

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    1. I'm glad it wasn't just me Michelle. Another blogger (Sim)told me that she has options for a movie role...ugh no

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  4. I read this book in print and thought it was great! It's bad you didn't enjoy the narrator but the narrator can make or break a book.

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  5. I should be getting this one on audio very soon, and I am hoping that the narrator doesn't put me off. I usually like McGovern, but with an accent, I am not sure. I have heard such great things about this book, and I can't wait to get to it. Excellent review today!

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  6. Terrific review! Glad you had this book in both forms!

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  7. Others have said the same thing about the audio.

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  8. It's too bad when the audio reader doesn't do justice to a good story.

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  9. I truly loved this book and I TOTALLY agree about Elizabeth McGovern's narration being annoying. I didn't like her accent at all, but eventually I was able to ignore it enough to enjoy the story. But I think I would have liked the print even more.

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  10. Reading your review and comments I was thinking, WOW this sounds fantastic AND perfect for a screen adaptation, right? So I snooped a bit and discovered that yes, not only has it been optioned for a film but that Elizabeth McGovern will actually play Cora in that movie. Presumably her accent won't be annoying in the context of a character - it's not in Downton Abbey. I do have to defend Ms. McGovern and say her accent isn't 'affected' ... the American actress moved to England where she now lives with her British husband. It seems logical that she would pick up a slight British accent. I agree with you that a British accent is wrong for an American story!

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  11. If you ever get a chance to see Moriarty, I definitely recommend it - her enthusiasm is infectious. Learning that everything about Louise (except, of course, her interaction w/ Cora specifically) is true gave me a greater appreciation for the book as I read.

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  12. I just read this as an egalley and enjoyed it very much. I am a fan of this author and like her style of writing and strong character development. I need to write my review now:)

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  13. I have been meaning to read this book for ages. I think I will be going for the book version though!

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  14. I seem to be in the minority here but I liked the audio version.

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  15. this one has been on my list for a while. You and Mary both really enjoyed it so I know that I will be getting around to it at some point!

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  16. I started listening to this book but I didn't get to finish before I had to return it!!!

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  17. Sorry for such a late comment, but I'm way behind. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and agree that historical fiction fans would love it too. I too did both audio and print, but found the narrator's accent almost too fakey.

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