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4.4 out of 5 stars
The Chaperone
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on 28 February 2014
Know nothing about the author I was initially I was attracted to this novel because an advert in the Paris Review suggested that it looked at the early life of Louise Brooks. I confess that I was a little disappointed at first because, quite rightly as it turned out, the early chapters were dominated by Cora the chaperone who took on the task of taking care of the fifteen year old Louise when she went to New York hoping for a stage career.
Cora soon won me over given the author's skill at pacing the story, introducing circumstances that at first seemed contrived but were soon accepted as integral, and the insight into the conflict between the conventional and rather repressed chaperone and the clever self-aware ambitious youngster who was supposed to be in her charge.
The novel is something of a 'saga'. Once into the narrative it held my attention but the multiplicity of plot lines, and the necessary simplification of character that this entails, presents a problem. The various stages of Louise Brooks life are included but sometimes more as a backdrop that the main event. How Cora progresses from her initial conservative and restricted attitudes to one of tolerance and understanding is the fundamental basis of the story and this is believable and gripping. There is much to enjoy and appreciate in this novel.
For those who want to know more I suggest that "Louise Brooks: a Biography" by Barry Paris, refereed to in the author's reading list. The quote above Chapter 1 "I have a gift for enraging people". Laura Moriarty certainly did her homework and my guess is that whenever I suspected some minor error I was wrong! The development of this interesting novel, from concept to completion, must be an interesting story in itself!
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on 26 August 2012
In 1922 the fictional Cora Carlisle, then a 36 year-old Wichita houswife, accompanies the precocious and very real 15 year-old Louise Brooks to New York to attend a dance school for a month. The best part of the book is the relationship between the two in that time. I found out much about Louise that I didn't know and the author conveys well her allure and magnetism. Cora is also an appealing and interesting character, though less convincing than Louise, not surprisingly. The same applies even moreso to the many other fictional characters in the story. Despite the title the story ranges over a very long period and in part the author is telling the history of sexuality in 20th century America, especially away from the east coast and Hollywood. I wonder how accurate this is. A few years ago the same subject was covered in a socio-historical study of another town in the state, Lawrence, Sex in the Heartlands [by Beth Bailey]. It is hard to believe, though, that someone like Louise could have come from Bailey's Kansas, yet she clearly did.
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on 6 August 2017
It is rare that I find a book that I simply cannot put down, but this was one. I had never heard of Louise Brooks, but even if the character had not been a real life one, the story was enchanting. It covered many subjects which human nature does not seem to have the wisdom to deal with but it also showed that an imperfect life is also well worth living.
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on 7 October 2013
Though the picture on the front of the book is Louise Brooks, she isn't the star in this, Cora Carlisle is! Not that the delectable Louise doesn't play a major part in this, she does, but this is more about Cora's amazing life in all honesty.

If you are a Brooks fan (and who isn't?), then you should read it anyway, there is more than enough of her to keep anyone satisfied. And yes, she lives up to reputation totally.

But Cora's incredible journey, including tales of adoption, homosexuality, and many other issues frowned upon back then are dealt with in a wonderfully clever way. A super mix of fact and fiction, and very much worth reading
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on 20 September 2012
I enjoyed this book. Its an interesting account of Cora who became a chaperone for the wayward Louise and how they travelled from small town to New York. It was interesting to learn all the historical facts of this period and I liked the way the book flowed and covered the marriage of convenience for Cora and her husband. I have not read any books by this author before but would certainly try more of her work. Great holiday read.
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VINE VOICEon 23 May 2012
I didn't have great expectations for this, but I loved it. I really liked the juxtaposition of Cora's story with that of Louise Brooks. The period detail was excellent, and the plot goes in some quite unexpected directions. A fresh, unusual book which is too original to be called chicklit, and a very satisfying read.
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on 22 July 2014
This book charts the life of a middle-class American woman in the 1920s who explores her past & we follow her life thru to the end. I liked that all the main characters have integrity. Couldn't put it down.
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on 22 August 2017
Brilliant, thought provoking book. I loved Cora's journey to the very last word.
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on 7 June 2014
A review by Paula Mclain "The Paris Wife" was enough to persuade me to try this and I was not disappointed. Sensitively written novel with surprising emotional twists and turns, an ultimately joyful and satisfying read.
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on 19 December 2012
I book related to the past, a time when I was a young girl. it opens your eyes and your heart to the broken hearts of the past.
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