Top critical review
A good first half...
on 18 October 2012
This starts off well with a lovingly-drawn portrait of 1920s small-town America and two of its women: the fifteen year old Louise Brooks, determined to leave Wichita and make something of her life; and the reserved though nice Cora Carlisle who has her own reasons for offering to chaperone Louise on a trip to New York.
The young Louise Brooks is portrayed excellently, and the tensions between her and Cora are dramatised well: the contrast between the fast Louise with her glossy bobbed hair, and her unrestricted movement, and old-fashioned Cora with her corsets, her long hemlines, and her pinned-up curls are made resonant of psychological and generational differences between the two women's outlooks and approaches to life.
As the book shifts its interest, however, away from Louise and onto Cora, it seems to lose direction and detail. It becomes thin and underwritten, with the last third or so becoming a panorama-like telling, telescoping about 50 years with no substance to it.
So I liked the start of this book a lot, but all the good work shown there seems to fall away. I didn't find Cora a particularly interesting character to read about, her story arc has been done before and better in a horde of other books, and the love story which might have sustained it felt utterly unconvincing to me. Plenty of other reviewers have loved this but I'm afraid it's just an average read for me.