- This book was recommended to me by a friend on Twitter.
Summary from GoodReads:
A captivating novel about the woman who chaperoned an irreverent Louise Brooks to New York City in 1922, and the summer that would change them both. Only a few years before becoming a famous actress and an icon for her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita to make it big 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 is a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip. She has no idea what she’s in for: Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous blunt bangs and black bob, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will change their lives forever. For Cora, New York holds the promise of discovery that might prove an answer to the question at the center of her being, and even as she does her best to watch over Louise in a strange and bustling city, she embarks on her own mission. And while what she finds isn’t what she anticipated, it liberates her in a way she could not have imagined. Over the course of the summer, Cora’s eyes are opened to the promise of the twentieth century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive.
Okay, seriously – when I first heard about The Chaperone it was through Twitter, and it was because I’d just finished listening to Rules of Civility and loved every second of it. Folks, I am not joking – this book was amazing. It completely lived up to the hype of my ranting and raving over Rules of Civility and, not only that, it reminded me of one of my favorite books of all time: Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.
This is the story of a mature woman, Cora Carlisle, and an adventure that takes her to New York, New York as the chaperone of a young, impulsive Louise Brooks. The story shifts around, from past – detailing the treatment of orphans and the dangers of being alone as a child during the turn of the century – to future, taking us through the later end of Cora’s life. And through it all, there is the portrait of Louise Brooks.
This book is in my top three for 2012. It’s gorgeous (look at that cover), has the perfect name, the perfect “hook,” deals with older women while accurately portraying not only the prejudices of the time, but also making an attempt to show how views began to change and how progress startles everyone as it happens.
While reading The Chaperone I was reminded of some of my favorite books while growing up, written by Grace Livingston Hill. I had always loved her books because black and white were so easily marked. The good girls wore their skirts at a respectable level, did not go out alone with boys, did not drink anything more scandalous than a soda-pop, never wore make-up, and lived modestly within their means. The bad girls always sported red lipstick, short skirts, bobbed hair, and pushed against the status quo. When I was a teenager, I loved these stories. Now, as a woman with experience behind her, I look for something more like The Chaperone – a book that blurs the line between black and white and, instead of giving us clear-cut molds to fit into, offers up the idea that people change over time, and what was considered right and good one year might not be the same the next.
This is a novel I highly recommend – it’s not really “chick-lit,” and I think men would enjoy the story just as much. It’s a fantastic story about the life of a woman who struggles to keep up with the times – and I think that’s pretty much a universal message.
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