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THE CHAPERONE by Laura Moriarty opens in the early 1920s in Wichita, Kansas, where Cora Carlisle lives with her husband, Alan, and twin sons. The boys are growing up, and Cora is restless. She seizes a chance to go to New York with Louise Brooks, then just a local girl, to chaperone her as she practices and tries out for the Denishawn dance troupe. Cora has a secret reason for wanting to get back to New York, and Louise provides the perfect opportunity to get there.
While Louise twirls in and out of this story, Cora is the star here. Her eyes open in the city, and what she does with this knowledge gives us a chance to see a woman who is living a very different life for her times while still keeping up appearances. I flew through it and then started Googling Louise Brooks. Readers who enjoy historical fiction will love the rich period details; I felt like I was seated at the dinner table in Wichita on more than one occasion, or at least hovering in the doorway.
If you enjoyed LOVING FRANK and THE PARIS WIFE, THE CHAPERONE will be right up your alley. While Brooks is not looked at in depth as Frank Lloyd Wright or Ernest Hemingway were in those books, framing the story with her provides another “behind the curtain” look, abeit an abbreviated one, at a well-known personality.
By the way, one of Laura’s previous books, THE REST OF HER LIFE, was one that I enjoyed enormously; I still think about that storyline a lot. THE CHAPERONE takes her work on a really different course, and I am very impressed with how she changed gears.