Be omnivorous, don't just read one kind of book, read everything. - Richard Wagamese

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Review: The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

Publisher: Riverhead
Pages: 384
Released: 2012
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5


When fifteen-year-old Louisa Brooks is offered to study at the prestigious Denishawn School of dance in New York, she is ecstatic but annoyed that her parents insist on sending her with a chaperone. Cora Carlisle overhears that the Brooks’ are looking for a chaperone, and she quickly jumps at the chance to offer her assistance, giving her husband no choice but to agree to let her go. Cora is in her thirties, married to a successful lawyer and her twin boys are away for the summer. Within a few days, Cora and Louisa board a train, set for New York. Cora quickly learns that she must tighten the reins on Louisa. Louisa is a wild child; ready to take on New York, keeping her morally in check proves to be very difficult. Cora is relieved when she learns the Denishawn School has strict rules which Louisa must follow while attending class. During the day Cora is free to explore New York; instead of sightseeing Cora has a hidden agent to investigate her own past. Before she was Cora Carlisle, she was “Cora X”- an orphan in New York.


The Chaperone is cleverly written and astonishingly well plotted. Louisa Brooks may be the famous silent actress with a sordid past, but the root of the novel is in Cora. Readers will immediately connect with Cora. Cora yearns to discover who she really is, who her parents are, what her ethnicity is. Her past is a blank slate, and she is hoping after many donations to her orphanage, they may decide to have a change of heart, and give her something, one little clue. Cora has spent her whole life, hiding her past, telling everyone her parents passed away. Her husband is the only one who really knows about her past. As a young girl, Cora was sent on a Catholic orphan train bound for the mid-west. She was eventually chosen by a nice couple, and she settled into her new life. Unfortunately, they passed suddenly, leaving Cora with nothing. Cora now has a respectable life, a successful husband who seems devoted to her, but behind closed doors, their marriage is not what it seems. Cora’s story is truly absorbing and very original.

Louisa is also a very interesting character, her family relationships are strained, especially with her mother. Louisa explains that her mother never really wanted children, and as a result she has always been disinterested in raising them. Louisa is self-centered, spoiled, and bratty but she also has a troubled past. Cora has her work cut out for her, and Louisa is sneaky. While Cora may be traditional, and conservative, there was no denying that times were changing.

I loved the Chaperone, and I didn’t really know what to expect when I started the novel. I was immediately captured by the story, and it was much better than I expected. I expected a book about flappers, and 1920’s New York, but there is so much more to this novel. The historical details are plentiful, but the story is truly spellbinding. There has been a lot of buzz around this book, which is well deserved. I highly recommend this one!


  1. I have this one on my TBR list and after reading your review I am bumping it up the list. I love reading about the 20s and the story sounds great.

  2. Me too (what Anne said). Yours is another in a long line of rave reviews I've read. I'm going to listen to the audio. Nice review!

  3. Oh good! I've got this one coming up and I wasn't sure if it was going to be for me. Great review!

  4. Sounds amazing and like an excellent summer read. The setting has me hooked!

  5. I'm glad you loved this too! Before I read it I thought I'd be more interested in Louisa, but I'm glad it ended up being mostly about Cora.

  6. This one sounds like one that is hard to put down once you start it!

  7. This one sounds like it has mystery shrouding both these ladies. I want to know what Cora's life is like behind closed doors and if she ever finds out who she is and where she came from.

  8. This sounds delightful and I love the era it is set in! Adding thus one to my list..yippie!

  9. I thought this book was wonderful too. Moriarty did a fantastic job of bringing the time period alive.

  10. Hi Jennifer,

    There seems to be a concensus of opinion that the descriptive writing about the place and time in which his story is set, is very proficient and adds a great backstory to that of the two women protagonists.

    I love the sound of Cora and what it transpires, her past life might have been like ... Could it be that she and Louisa have more in common than they thought and that both their mothers had little or no time for children, so that one ended up in an orphanage and the other becoming spoilt and pampered as compensation for not being wanted?

    This is a definite for my reading list, thanks for sharing and for a good and thoughtful review.


  11. What a wonderful review. I keep seeing this one at the bookstore but have been unsure about whether or not to add it to my wish list. Based on your review I will now be doing so.

  12. This is definitely a book I hope to get to this summer. I don't think I've come across a negative review yet!

  13. It's always nice when you're not sure what to expect from a book or aren't expecting anything really and then it turns out to be brilliant:) Glad this one worked so well for you, I think I would really enjoy all the historical details:)

  14. I passed on this one because of my hectic review schedule but I will look for it at the library.

  15. I wasn't planning on reading this one, but your review has me rethinking that!