The Chaperone by Laura Morairty
Published by Riverhead, an imprint of Penguin
It is the summer of 1922 and fifteen-year-old aspiring actress Louise Brooks has convinced her parents to allow her to study at the Denishawn School of Dancing in New York City, provided she have a chaperone for the duration of her time there. Thirty-six-year-old Cora Carlisle is an acquaintance of Louise’s mother, and has no idea what she signed up for when she agreed to spend the summer with spoiled and petulant Louise. But Cora has her own reasons for making this trip, and while Louise is at school during the days, Cora spends time searching for answers to questions she’s held on to all her life. What neither woman knows is that the time they spend together in New York will change both of their lives in immeasurable ways.
From the moment I began listening to this audiobook, I was swept into Cora’s story and hated every moment I had to spend away from it. Going into it, I knew lots of bloggers were raving about this novel but I honestly wasn’t expecting to love it as much as I did. When the book first begins, it’s easy to assume that you will be treated to a nice, easygoing story of a woman traveling to New York and the adventures she finds there. Instead, you are treated to a true coming of age story, a story about a woman coming into her own and realizing – and embracing – who she is, where she comes from, and what she wants for her life. Everything about it was excellent and I just loved being on this journey with Cora.
Morairty manages to cover a lot of “issues” in this one novel but she does it with such grace that everything works together in a perfect way. It never feels overwhelming or like there are too many topics competing for the readers’ attention. Also, I loved the fact that there was so much history in this one book. Most of it was just the atmosphere of the novel, the thinking of the time, and the way Morairty showed the reader the history with such subtlety.
I have to admit that I wasn’t a huge fan of Elizabeth McGovern’s narration in the audio. She has an English accent that sounds really false to me, and I wish she would have just narrated the whole thing in her regular voice. She did the characters’ voices perfectly, and besides her accent everything else about her narration was excellent. I just couldn’t get past that fake British thing, it felt so strange to me.
Overall I absolutely loved The Chaperone. It is truly a coming of age story, and I couldn’t help but falling in love with Cora, the center of it all. Just a lovely, wonderful book in every way.