Book Review: The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty
I don't think there's any other period in time as enticing as the 1920's, and that's certainly what drew me to this book. I hadn't heard of Louise Brooks (a real actress of the period who this fictional story is centred around) but I was looking forward to reading about the glamour of New York during this exciting time.
What was surprising is this isn't what the book is about. I was expecting stories of Flappers and Speak-easies, glitz and glamour. Instead, this is a very quiet yet thoughtful book about a woman's journey in finding herself in a time when the very essence of the society she has grown up with is changing at lightening speed.
Told through the eyes of Cora, the actresses 36 year old chaperone, we see through her eyes the changing attitudes in both her small town in Kansas and New York with themes including class division, poverty, women's rights, racism and homophobia. I love the way Cora developes throughout this book, from typically narrow-minded to a pioneer and champion of the underdog. It's all very quiet and subtle, and spanning decades rather than set in only in the 1920's you really get a feel of the shifting changes. I think in this respect, Laura Moriarty really grasps and evokes history.
So, was I disappointed in the lack of glamour of the roaring twenties? Slightly...I must be honest. After all, that's what I went into the book expecting. I also thought the book lacked a little drama at times and lost pace in the middle, with the final third spanning fifty years a little too quickly. Nonetheless once I finished it, I did have plenty to think about and in turn appreciate it. The Chaperone is a story of one woman's journey of acceptance, both of herself and others. Who without people such as her, we wouldn't have the far more accepting and diverse world we have today. She's a normal woman, who does nothing particularly heroic...but she's quietly brave in her fight against repression and I very much enjoyed her story.
Published by Penguin UK April 2012
My copy was an advanced readers copy from the Amazon Vine program.