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Fictional account of
Louise Brooks escape from the mid west to New York to train for the stage as a dancer.
Told by the middle aged chaperone who accompanies her to escape her unhappy marriage, she discovers love for the first time with a German immigrant who she dislikes on sight while revisiting the convent she was left in as an orphan.
Louise is determined to succeed and never return home and the chaperone does not want to either. She is on a mission to discover her origins from the convent and leaves happier with her new lover and lives happily ? ever after. . .in a new frame of mind with a freer attitude learned from Louise whose love of life, intelligence and energy sparkle; gives the chaperone courage to make demands at home and live her life the way she wants, instead of conforming to the narrow confines of housewifery and non sex life with her homosexual husband.
Fast, jazz hot, sweltering New York leaps off the page as does the slow pace of small town America where everyone knows your business. The book delves into black segregation on
Broadway and immigrant poverty, middle class hypocrisy, alcoholism, unhappy marriage and church.
I absolutely loved it.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
This is excellently read by Elizabeth McGovern, immediately recognisable from Downton Abbey, whose warm southern cadences are easy to engage with. The story brings tobgether an eclectic cast of characters and doesn't fare well under too close examination in terms of plot credibility, but it is light-hearted fun and in the end a good yarn to entertain you whilst you drive, walk the dog or hang out the washing!
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Most of the audiobooks I listen to tend to be classics or things I have already read; since I often listen while doing housework, I find it helpful to know the story, and like to know I will enjoy listening to it before buying. Unusually for me, I bought Laura Moriarty's "The Chaperone" on spec, mainly because I have liked the narrator, Elizabeth McGovern, as an actress for many years, and because, having read a biography of the film star Louise Brooks, one of the main characters, I was intrigued by the idea of a fictional treatment of her life. In fact, Louise is a largely tangential character; the novel, which is a solid written piece of what might be termed "women's fiction", is really about the "chaperone" of the title, a 36 year old married woman called Cora Carlisle, who accompanies the teenaged Louise to New York when she goes there to study dancing, and whose own life is unexpectedly changed in the process.
The real life Louise Brooks seems to have been a brittle, damaged woman, whose great beauty, talent and enormous intelligence tapped right into the zeitgeist of the 1920s and catapulted her into a brief but meteoric career as a movie star. Laura Moriarty captures this difficult personality well when writing about the teenaged Louise, and one can relate to the unfortunate Cora's frustration with her wayward charge. But Cora, an intelligent, kind, but rather uptight woman, has come to New York with an agenda of her own, and when she returns to the orphanage where she grew up in search of her origins, she finds herself learning far more about herself than she has expected. While some of her subsequent life choices seem a little startling (and frankly hard to believe considering how conventional the character is at the start), the author is commendably even-handed and compassionate towards her characters. It would be easy, for example for her to have made villains of Cora's husband, who married her under false pretences and betrayed her, or the nuns who ran the orphanage from whence Cora was adopted (in a time when stories about adoption so often focus on cruelty towards the relinquishing mothers, the author's measured descriptions of the whys and wherefores of the adoption policies of the early 20th century are thankfully spot on). Even Louise's narcissistic, neglectful mother, surely the most unsympathetic character in the entire book, gets a fair hearing, which it seems doubtful she deserves.
Elizabeth McGovern gives an insensitive and intelligent reading of this imaginitive and unusual novel, and is a delight to listen to. I am happy to recommend this book, and hope others enjoy it as much as I did.