The Chaperone

The Chaperone

Hardcover | June 5, 2012

byLaura Moriarty

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The New York Times bestseller and the USA Today #1 Hot Fiction Pick for the summer, The Chaperone is a captivating novel about the woman who chaperoned an irreverent Louise Brooks to New York City in 1922 and the summer that would change them both.

Only a few years before becoming a famous silent-film star and an icon of her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita, Kansas, to study with the prestigious Denishawn School of Dancing in New York. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone, who is neither mother nor friend. Cora Carlisle, a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip, has no idea what she’s in for. Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous black bob with blunt bangs, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will transform their lives forever.

For Cora, the city holds the promise of discovery that might answer the question at the core of her being, and even as she does her best to watch over Louise in this strange and bustling place she embarks on a mission of her own. And while what she finds isn’t what she anticipated, she is liberated in a way she could not have imagined. Over the course of Cora’s relationship with Louise, her eyes are opened to the promise of the twentieth century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive.

Drawing on the rich history of the 1920s,’30s, and beyond—from the orphan trains to Prohibition, flappers,  and the onset of the Great Depression to the burgeoning movement for equal rights and new opportunities for women—Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone illustrates how rapidly everything, from fashion and hemlines to values and attitudes, was changing at this time and what a vast difference it all made for Louise Brooks, Cora Carlisle, and others like them.

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The Chaperone

Hardcover | June 5, 2012
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From the Publisher

The New York Times bestseller and the USA Today #1 Hot Fiction Pick for the summer, The Chaperone is a captivating novel about the woman who chaperoned an irreverent Louise Brooks to New York City in 1922 and the summer that would change them both.Only a few years before becoming a famous silent-film star and an icon of her generation,...

Laura Moriarty is the author of The Center of Everything, The Rest of Her Life, and While I’m Falling.  She lives in Lawrence, Kansas.

other books by Laura Moriarty

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see all books by Laura Moriarty
Format:HardcoverDimensions:384 pages, 9.25 × 6.25 × 1.25 inPublished:June 5, 2012Publisher:PutnamLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1594487014

ISBN - 13:9781594487019

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Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from Classy I really enjoyed The Chaperone. By the end I was tearing up because you really become attached to the characters (good and bad!).
Date published: 2014-09-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great book Interesting insight into 1920s America and a range of issues of the time. I'd recommend it, was hooked a number of times and couldn't put it down.
Date published: 2014-07-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great book I quite enojyed this book. It took a few unexpected turns, and I found myself really caring about the character of Cora. It was her story more than that of Louise Brooks that I got wrapped up in. If you love period novels, it's lush too. I would definitely recommend this book, I plan on giving it as a gift.
Date published: 2014-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great read I really enjoyed this clever and original story.
Date published: 2014-01-01
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Chaperone A page-turner. Interesting story and well written.
Date published: 2013-11-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Chaperone This was a beautifully written book that told the story of two interesting women and the summer that changed both of their lives. It was interesting to see a story that weaves through several decades and illustrates what the world was like during that time.
Date published: 2013-10-10
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Highly Over-rated This book was raved about. Had I noticed that it was recommended by "O" Oprah magazine I would never have picked it up. As it was I picked up several books at one time to read and this was one of them. First off it took well over 100 pages for it to grab my interest. After that it was slow, draggy and sorry boring. I stuck it out till the end but there is no way I would recommend it to a friend to read. A look at the 20's etc. a little but really it was like watching paint dry for me. But that is one person's opinion and obviously I am in the minority. I will know better next time though.
Date published: 2013-09-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Chaperone A very thoughtful and entertaining book. It is filled with wonderful twists and turns all of which create the wonderful character, Cora.
Date published: 2013-09-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic read Enjoyed it to the very last word!!!
Date published: 2013-07-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Book club recommend This isn't just a story of two completely different women who are at different stages of their lives experiencing New York. It is so much more. As each one confronts their own personal demons and dreams, the reader is exposed to life in one of the most challenging decades for women - the 1920's. And soon we find that they are not so much different than we are. And the issues are still pushing us to face our own futures. One of the best books about forgiveness and kindness I have read in a while.
Date published: 2013-06-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Quite the saga! Great read. Well paced and engaging. Surprisingly it sis not end when I expected it to...
Date published: 2013-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly Recommended I just finished this novel and recommend it highly, not just to get a feel for NYC in the 20s, but for an engrossing story about family and love in all its many forms and what life was like in Kansas, away from the lights of the 'big city'. I disagree with a previous reviewer who disliked the second half of the book--I really liked seeing Cora's develpment as the effects of her trip to New York reverberated through the rest of her life.
Date published: 2013-02-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A wonderful escape to a chaotic time The Chaperone follows silent film star Louise Brooks to New York City in the 1920s before she was famous. In this book she is a precocious teenager who is fully embracing the scandalous changes that the 20s brought to America just a few years before she makes it big. The Chaperone of the title is Cora, Louise's adult chaperone who is to keep her out of trouble while in NYC attending a summer dance school. The story mostly follows Cora and her secret reasons for going to NYC and how it all unfolds. She is from a different generation and finds herself often shocked by Louise's behavior. However as she sees the way society is changing and does some reflecting on her own situation, she finds herself changing as well. This is a wonderful escape to a different time that is often glamorized but, as usual, not everything we think it was. Race issues, prohibition, same sex relationships and birth control were all hot button topics in this era and are all touched upon in this book. I wish the author had ended it a bit differently but I think I understand why she did it the way she did.
Date published: 2013-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The Chaperone I really enjoyed this book! I loved the openness and most of all Cora's self discovery. It gave me some understanding of the life I lead and my thoughts. A great read!
Date published: 2013-01-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Enjoyable for its simplicity The narrative of what this book is about doesn't really do the story justice. The story is really more about Cora's journey of self-discovery as influenced by her history, her charge's attitudes (Louise), and the rapidly changing world beginning in the 1920s. An interesting journey. I didn't realize as I read this book that Louise Brooks is in fact a real person with a historically accurate depiction (at least regarding her history and career) in this book. That put things in new perspective once I had finished. While the book wasn't a page-turner per se, or terribly riveting, I still thoroughly enjoyed Cora's character, loved reading about life in NYC in the 1920s, and for some reason I can't put my finger on, I simply enjoyed this book for its simplicity.
Date published: 2013-01-10
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing Finish The first part of the book which covered the trip to New York and backstory was terrific with great characters. However, the second part of the book was hurried. I felt I was reading an outline for a great book and wished that the writing delved more into the chararacters rather than resting on a promising premise.
Date published: 2012-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Read! Story Description: In 1922, only a few years before she will become a famous film actress and an icon for her generation, a fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita for a summer in New York City and the avant-garde Denishawn school of dance. Much to her annoyance, she is accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone. Cora Carlisle is neither mother nor friend, just a respectable neighbor whom Louise’s parents have hired for propriety’s sake. But upstanding, traditional Cora has her own private reason for making the trip. Of course, Cora has no idea what she’s in for; young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous black bob, is known for her arrogance, her disregard for convention, and her keen intelligence. By the time their train pulls into Grand Central, Cora fears that supervising Louise will be at best exhausting and, at worst, impossible. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will be the most important of her life. For Cora, New York holds the promise of discovery that might answer the question at the center of her being, and even as she does her best to watch over Louise in a strange and bustling city, she embarks on her own mission. And while what she discovers isn’t what she anticipated, it liberates her in a way she could not have imagined. Over the course of the summer, Cora’s eyes are opened to the promise of the twentieth century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive. In this beautifully written and deeply moving novel, fact and fiction blend together seamlessly to create a page-turning story of two very different women who share a desire for freedom and fulfillment. My Review: Cora Carlisle is a thirty-six-year-old woman in 1920 married to, Alan, a successful lawyer and living in Wichita. Together they have twin boys who are away working on a farm for the summer and will be entering college upon their return. Cora is a strong woman, very traditional with her dress and a strong sense of right and wrong. Abandoned as a child and living in an orphanage in New York, she is put on a train and adopted by the Kaufmann’s and raised in the Midwest on a farm. She has always wanted to return to New York to try and find her birth mother so when an opportunity arises for her to “chaperone” fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks to New York for five weeks during the summer she jumps at the chance. Alan is busy at work and with her boys away it’s the perfect time for her to go. Louise Brooks is an absolutely drop-dead gorgeous young girl with black hair cut into a very short bob. She is a dancer and will be attending the Denishawn Dance Studio for the summer in the hope of being chosen as their star dancer and moving onto bigger and better things. Cora soon realizes that her chaperoning job isn’t going to be quite as easy as she first thought when Louise disappears at the train station while waiting with their families to see them off. When Cora excuses herself to find Louise who said she was going to the bathroom, she instead finds her outright flirting with a man. Once on the train it doesn’t take Cora long to realize that Louise is going to run circles around her, is a tad mouthy, arrogant, and quite openly flirtatious. Cora tries to lecture her about respectability and being moral but Louise just scoffs at her. Cora has always tried her best to do what society and everyone else expects her to do rather than seek her own happiness, however that is about to change. Upon her return from New York, she learns something about Alan that she’d rather not know and this provides her with the courage to abandon her old ways and begin living for her own happiness rather than what other people’s expectations of her happiness should be. During the last two-thirds of the book, we see a completely different Cora whom I came to admire. I think she showed a lot of courage and perhaps some may see her as being less than honest but I was rooting for her all the way. If anyone deserved a true sense of peaceful fulfillment and happiness, it is Cora Carlisle. The Chaperone is a wonderful novel of self-courage that is filled with insight yet gracefully poignant. I loved this book and might just read it again!
Date published: 2012-06-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from fascinating and historicaly accurate The Good Stuff Thoroughly researched and every aspect of story true to the time period Moriarty fabulous at setting mood and landscape of the story Excellent character development for Cora (Don't want to put spoilers in so I will leave it at that) Background of Cora slowly emerges like little mysteries being solved, which keeps you interested Really gives you a glimpse into the lives of women during the late 1800's to mid 70's and all that we have overcome Also you get a real feel for the American Midwest during the 1920's Nice commentary on change, acceptance and forgiveness Will make you want to pick up a copy of Lulu in Hollywood (Louise Brooks memoir) Loved that it focused, not on the famous Louise Brooks, but a simple conventional mid-western women who ends up living a very unconventional life A lovely book to lose yourself in on a cold winters night - or in my case two extremely bumpy plane rides (helped get me through it by the way -- the power of a good book my friends) Takes history and makes it personal and something you can connect with Really got a kick out of some of the dialogue that came out of Viola's mouth & felt extremely lucky to have grown up in the era I did Learned some fascinating information - floored by how the Ku Klux Klan tried to get women to join in Kansas The Not So Good Stuff Story starts very slow, but keep reading it gets going a quarter way through and you become hooked Last years of the story goes by so very quickly and feels rushed Hard to read at times due to the plight of women and all they had to fight against in terms of access to birth control and the condemnation of unwed or poor mothers Favorite Quotes/Passages "Foolish. This bobbing business is just a craze. When its over, everyone who followed the lemmings over the cliff will need years to grow their hair out." "But Cora felt a girl needed a stronger warning - if only because the world was unfair. There are some inequities that wouldn't change. Maybe they couldn't. In any case, it was simply the way things were." She glanced over her shoulder before leaning in. "Louise, I'll put it to you plainly. Men don't want candy that's been unwrapped. Maybe for a lark, but not when it comes to marriage. It may still be perfectly clean, but if it's unwrapped, they don't know where its been." "That's what spending the time with the young can do - its the big payoff for all the pain. The young can exasperate, of course, and frighten, and condescend, and insult, and cut you with their still unrounded edges. But they can also drag you, as you protest and scold and try to pull away, right up to the window of the future, and even push you through." Who Should/Shouldn't Read Definitely for those who have a interest in Louise Brooks Fans of historical fiction - especially in 1920's America Not for those looking for non stop action and sex Good for those interested in a discussion of women's rights and feminism 4 Dewey's Received this from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review
Date published: 2012-05-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Thoroughly researched and fascinating The Good Stuff Thoroughly researched and every aspect of story true to the time period Moriarty fabulous at setting mood and landscape of the story Excellent character development for Cora (Don't want to put spoilers in so I will leave it at that) Background of Cora slowly emerges like little mysteries being solved, which keeps you interested Really gives you a glimpse into the lives of women during the late 1800's to mid 70's and all that we have overcome Also you get a real feel for the American Midwest during the 1920's Nice commentary on change, acceptance and forgiveness Will make you want to pick up a copy of Lulu in Hollywood (Louise Brooks memoir) Loved that it focused, not on the famous Louise Brooks, but a simple conventional mid-western women who ends up living a very unconventional life A lovely book to lose yourself in on a cold winters night - or in my case two extremely bumpy plane rides (helped get me through it by the way -- the power of a good book my friends) Takes history and makes it personal and something you can connect with Really got a kick out of some of the dialogue that came out of Viola's mouth & felt extremely lucky to have grown up in the era I did Learned some fascinating information - floored by how the Ku Klux Klan tried to get women to join in Kansas The Not So Good Stuff Story starts very slow, but keep reading it gets going a quarter way through and you become hooked Last years of the story goes by so very quickly and feels rushed Hard to read at times due to the plight of women and all they had to fight against in terms of access to birth control and the condemnation of unwed or poor mothers Favorite Quotes/Passages "Foolish. This bobbing business is just a craze. When its over, everyone who followed the lemmings over the cliff will need years to grow their hair out." "But Cora felt a girl needed a stronger warning - if only because the world was unfair. There are some inequities that wouldn't change. Maybe they couldn't. In any case, it was simply the way things were." She glanced over her shoulder before leaning in. "Louise, I'll put it to you plainly. Men don't want candy that's been unwrapped. Maybe for a lark, but not when it comes to marriage. It may still be perfectly clean, but if it's unwrapped, they don't know where its been." "That's what spending the time with the young can do - its the big payoff for all the pain. The young can exasperate, of course, and frighten, and condescend, and insult, and cut you with their still unrounded edges. But they can also drag you, as you protest and scold and try to pull away, right up to the window of the future, and even push you through." Who Should/Shouldn't Read Definitely for those who have a interest in Louise Brooks Fans of historical fiction - especially in 1920's America Not for those looking for non stop action and sex Good for those interested in a discussion of women's rights and feminism 4 Dewey's Received this from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review
Date published: 2012-05-09

Extra Content

Read from the Book

OneThe First time Cora heard the name Louise Brooks, she was parked outside the Wichita Library in a Model-T Ford, waiting for the rain to stop. If Cora had been alone, unencumbered, she might have made a dash across the lawn and up the library’s stone steps, but she and her friend Viola Hammond had spent the morning going door-to-door in their neighborhood, collecting books for the new children’s room, and the considerable fruits of their efforts were safe and dry in four crates in the backseat. The storm, they decided, would be a short one, and they couldn’t risk the books getting wet.And really, Cora thought, staring out into the rain, it wasn’t as if she had anything else to do. Her boys were already gone for the summer, both of them working on a farm outside Win?eld. In the fall, they would leave for college. Cora was still getting used to the quiet, and also the freedom, of this new era of her life. Now, long after Della left for the day, the house stayed clean, with no muddy footprints on the ?oor, and no records scattered around the phonograph. There were no squabbles over the car to mediate, no tennis matches at the club to cheer on, and no assigned essays to proofread and commend. The pantry and icebox actually stayed stocked with food without daily trips to the store. Today, with Alan at work, she had no reason to rush home at all.“I’m glad we took your car and not ours,” Viola said, adjusting her hat, which was pretty, a puffed turban with an ostrich feather curling down from the crown. “People say closed cars are a luxury, but not on a day like this.”Cora gave her what she hoped was a modest smile. Not only was the car covered, it had come with an electric starter. Cranking cars, no business for a lady, was how the ad went, though Alan had admitted he didn’t miss cranking either.Viola turned, eyeing the books in the backseat. “People were generous,” she allowed. Viola was a decade older than Cora, her hair already gray at the temples, and she spoke with the authority of her added years. “Mostly. You notice Myra Brooks didn’t even open her door.”Cora hadn’t noticed. She’d been working the other side of the street. “Maybe she wasn’t home.”“I heard the piano.” Viola’s eyes slid toward Cora. “She didn’t bother to stop playing when I knocked. I have to say, she’s very good.”Lightning shot across the western sky, and though both women ?inched, Cora, without thinking, smiled. She’d always loved these late-spring storms. They came on so fast, rolling in from the prairie on expanding columns of clouds, a welcome release from the day’s building heat. An hour before, when Cora and Viola were canvassing, the sun was hot in a blue sky. Now rain fell fast enough to slice green leaves from the big oak outside the library. The lilacs trembled and tossed.“Don’t you think she’s a tiresome snob?”Cora hesitated. She didn’t like to gossip, but she could hardly count Myra Brooks as a friend. And they’d been to how many suffrage meetings together? Had marched together in the street? Yet if she passed Myra today on Douglas Avenue, Cora wouldn’t get so much as a hello. Still, she never got the feeling that it was snobbery as much as Myra simply not registering her existence, and there was a chance it was nothing personal. Myra Brooks didn’t seem to look at anyone, Cora had noticed, not unless she was the one speaking, watching for the impression she made. And yet, of course, everyone looked at her. She was, perhaps, the most beautiful woman Cora had ever seen in person: she had pale skin, ?awless, and large, dark eyes, and then all that thick, dark hair. She was certainly a talented speaker—her voice was never shrill, and her enunciations were clear. But everyone knew it was Myra’s looks that had made her a particularly good spokeswoman for the Movement, a nice antidote to the newspapers’ idea of what a suffragist looked like. And you could tell she was intelligent, cultured. She was supposed to know everything about music, the works of all the famous composers. She certainly knew how to charm. Once, when she was at the podium, she had looked down at Cora, right into her eyes, and smiled as if they were friends.“I don’t really know her,” Cora said. She looked back out through the blurred windshield, at people ducking out from a streetcar, running for cover. Alan had taken a streetcar to work, so she could have the Ford.“Then I’ll inform you. Myra Brooks is a tiresome snob.” Viola turned to Cora with a little smile, the ostrich plume grazing her chin. “I’ll give you the latest example: she just sent a note to the secretary of our club. Apparently, Madame Brooks is looking for someone to accompany one of her daughters to New York this summer. The older one, Louise, got into some prestigious dance school there, but she’s only ?fteen. Myra actually wants one of us to go with her. For over a month!” Viola seemed pleasantly outraged, her cheeks rosy, her eyes bright. “I mean, really! I don’t know what she’s thinking. That we’re the help? That one of us will be her Irish nanny?” She frowned and shook her head. “Most of us have progressive husbands, but I can’t imagine any one of them would spare a wife for over a month so she could go to New York City, of all places. Myra herself is too busy to go. She has to lie around the house and play the piano.”Cora pursed her lips. New York. She felt the old ache right away. “Well. I suppose she has other children to look after.”“Oh, she does, but that’s not it. She doesn’t take care of them. They’re motherless, those children. Poor Louise goes to Sunday school by herself. The instructor is Edward Vincent, and he picks her up and takes her home every Sunday. I heard that right from his wife. Myra and Leonard are alleged Presbyterians, but you never see them at church, do you? They’re too sophisticated, you see. They don’t make the other children go either.”“That speaks well of the daughter, that she makes the effort to go on her own.” Cora cocked her head. “I wonder if I’ve ever seen her.”“Louise? Oh, you would remember. She doesn’t look like anyone else. Her hair is black like Myra’s, but perfectly straight like an Oriental’s, and she wears it in a Buster Brown.” Viola gestured just below her ears. “She didn’t bob it. She had it cut like that when they moved here years ago. It’s too short and severe, a horrible look, in my opinion, not feminine at all. But even so, I have to say, she’s a very pretty girl. Prettier than her mother.” She smiled, leaning back in her seat. “There’s some justice in that, I think.”Cora tried to picture this black-haired girl, more beautiful than her beautiful mother. Her gloved hand moved to the back of her own hair, which was dark, but not remarkably so. It certainly wasn’t perfectly straight, though it looked presentable, she hoped, pinned up under her straw hat. Cora had been told she had a kind, pleasant face, and that she was lucky to have good teeth. But that had never added up to striking beauty. And now she was thirty-six.“My own girls are threatening to cut their hair,” Viola said with a sigh. “Foolish. This bobbing business is just a craze. When it’s over, everyone who followed the lemmings over the cliff will need years to grow their hair out. A lot of people won’t hire girls with bobbed hair. I try to warn them, but they won’t listen. They just laugh at me. And they have their own language, their own secret code for them and their friends. Do you know what Ethel called me the other day? She called me a wurp.That’s not a real word. But when I tell them that, they laugh.”“They’re just trying to rattle you,” Cora said with a smile. “And I’m sure they won’t really bob their hair.” Really, it seemed unlikely. The magazines were full of short-haired girls, but in Wichita, bobs were still a rarity. “I do think it looks good on some girls,” Cora said shyly. “Short hair, I mean. And it must feel cooler, and lighter. Just think—you could throw all your hairpins away.”Viola looked at her, eyebrows raised.“Don’t worry. I won’t do it.” Cora again touched the back of her neck. “I might if I were younger.”The rain was coming down faster, rapping hard on the roof of the car.Viola crossed her arms. “Well, if my girls do cut their hair, I can tell you now, it won’t be so they can throw away hairpins. They’ll do it to be provocative. To look provocative. That’s what passes for fashion these days. That’s what young people are all about now.” She sounded suddenly stricken, more confused than indignant. “I don’t understand it, Cora. I raised them to have propriety. But both of them are suddenly obsessed with showing the world their knees. They roll their skirts up after they leave the house. I can tell by the waistbands. I know they defy me. They roll their stockings down, too.” She gazed out into the rain, lines branching beneath her eyes. “What I don’t know is why, what’s going on in their little heads, why they don’t care about the message they’re sending. When I was young, I never felt the need to show the general public my knees.” She shook her head. “Those two cause me more grief than all four of my boys. I envy you, Cora. You’re lucky to only have sons.”Maybe, Cora thought. She did love the very maleness of the twins, their robust health and con?dence, their practical taste in clothing, their easy reconciliations after heated quarrels. Earle was smaller and quieter than Howard, but even he seemed capable of forgetting all worries when he held a racquet or a bat. She loved that they had both wanted to work on a farm, seeing it as an adventure in country living and physical labor, though she also worried they had no idea how much labor they’d signed on for. And she knew she had been lucky with her sons, and not just in the way that Viola meant. The Hendersons next door had a son just four years older than the twins, but those few years had made all the difference—Stuart Henderson had been killed in early 1918, ?ghting in France. Four years later, Cora was still stunned. For her, Stuart Henderson would always be a gangly adolescent, smiling and waving from his bike at her own boys, who were small then, still in short pants. Really, being lucky with sons seemed a matter of timing.But whatever Viola said, Cora thought she might have fared just as well with daughters. She would have been good with girls, perhaps, using the right combination of instruction and understanding. Maybe Viola was just going about it the wrong way.“I’m telling you, Cora. Something is wrong with this new generation. They don’t care about anything important. When we were young, we wanted the vote. We wanted social reform. Girls today just want to . . . walk around practically naked so they can be stared at. It’s as if they have no other calling.”Cora could hardly disagree. It really was shocking, how much skin girls were showing these days. And she wasn’t some old prude or Mrs. Grundy; she was fairly sure she wasn’t a wurp, though she didn’t know what that meant either. Cora had been pleased when the hemlines moved up to nine inches from the ankle. Some leg showed, true, but that change seemed sensible: no more skirts trailing in the mud and bringing typhoid or who knows what into the house. And calf length was far preferable to the ridiculous hobble skirts that she herself had stumbled around in, all for the sake of fashion, not so long ago. Still, girls were now sporting skirts so short that their knees showed every time the wind blew, and there was no practical reason for that. Viola was right: a girl who wore a skirt that short just wanted to be looked at, and looked at in that way. Cora had even seen a few women her own age showing their knees, right here in Wichita, and really, in her opinion, these half-naked matrons looked especially vulgar.Viola looked at her brightly. “That’s one of the reasons I’m joining the Klan.”Cora turned. “What?”“The Klan. Ku Klux. They sent a representative to the club last week. I wish you would have been there, Cora. They’re very interested in women joining up, holding positions.”“I’m sure they are,” Cora murmured. “We vote.”“Don’t be a cynic. They were much more speci?c than that. They know that there are serious women’s issues at hand, and that women need to be in the ?ght.” The ostrich feather bobbed as she spoke. “They’re against all this modernization, all these outside in?uences on our youth. They’re interested in racial purity, of course, but they’re just as interested in teaching personal purity for young women. We do need to keep our race pure, and Good Lord, we need to keep it going. My brother-in-law says a veritable takeover is coming, and it’s all being planned in the basement of the Vatican. That’s the real reason Catholics have so many children, you know, and meanwhile, our people have one or two or none at . . .”Viola trailed off. She rolled her lips in. It took Cora a moment to understand.“I’m sorry,” Viola said. “I didn’t mean you. Your situation is different.”Cora waved her off. The twins were what she had. But both she and Viola were silent for a while, and there was only the tapping rain.“In any case,” Viola said ?nally, “I think it would be good for the girls. Good, moral people to mix with.”Cora swallowed, feeling short of breath. She had been wearing a corset day in, day out, for so many years that she rarely registered it as a discomfort. It seemed a part of her body. But in moments of distress, such as now, she was aware of her constricted rib cage. She would have to choose her words carefully. She could not come across as personally concerned.“I don’t know,” she said, her voice breezy, not betraying her in any way. “Oh,Viola. The Klan? They wear those white gowns, those hoods with the spooky eyeholes.” She ?uttered her gloved hands. “And they have wizards and grand wizards, and bon?res.” Even as she smiled, she glanced into Viola’s small blue eyes, analyzing what she saw there. She had to consider her options, her best route to success. Viola was older, but Cora was richer. She would capitalize on that.“It just seems a little . . . common.” She shrugged, apologetic.Viola cocked her head. “But lots of people are—”“Exactly.” Cora smiled again. She had chosen the right word, precisely. It was as if they were shopping at the Innes Department Store together, and Cora had shown disdain for an ugly china pattern. She already knew, with certainty, Viola would reconsider.When the rain let up, they slid out and carried the crates in, sidestepping puddles, each woman making two trips. Inside, waiting for the librarian, they chatted about other things. They ?ipped through a pristine copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and smiled at the illustrations. They stopped at the Lassen Hotel for tea, and then Cora drove Viola home.So many years later, this easy ride home with Viola would be the part of the story where Cora, in the telling, would momentarily lose the regard of a grandniece she adored. This grandniece, who at seventeen, incidentally, wore her hair much longer than her mother preferred, would be frustrated to the point of tears that in 1961 she was not yet old enough to join the freedom riders in the South. She often admonished Cora for using the word “colored,” but she generally showed her more patience than she did her own parents, understanding that her aunt Cora was not a hateful person, just an old woman with tainted language.But that patience was tested when she heard about Viola. Cora’s grandniece couldn’t comprehend why her great-aunt would remain friends with a woman who even considered being part of the Klan. Did she not know what they did to people? Her grandniece would look at Cora with scorn, and with forsaken, teary eyes. Had she been unaware of their cowardly crimes? Their murders of innocent people?Yes, Cora would say, but in the end, Viola never joined. Only because she was a snob, her grandniece would counter. Not because the Klan was repugnant. It was a different time, was all Cora could say, defending her old friend, who would be long since dead by then. (Cancer. She’d started smoking after her daughters picked it up.) Consider the numbers, Cora would try. That rainy day with Viola was in the summer of 1922, when the Klan was six thousand strong in the city limits—and Wichita only held maybe eighty thousand souls in total. That wasn’t unusual for the time. The Klan was strong and growing in many towns, in many states. Were people just stupider then? Meaner? Maybe, Cora allowed. But it was foolish to assume that had you lived in that time, you wouldn’t be guilty of the same ignorance, unable to reason your way out. Cora herself had only escaped that particular stupidity because of her special circumstance. Other confusions had held her longer.There’s plenty of stupidity now, the grandniece said, and I know it for what it is. True, Cora conceded, and I’m proud of you for that. But maybe there’s some more, and you don’t know it’s there. Do you know what I’m saying? Honey? To someone who grows up by the stockyards, that smell just smells like air. You don’t know what a younger person might someday think of you, and whatever stench we still breathe in without noticing. Listen to me, honey. Please. I’m old now, and this is something I’ve learned.After she dropped Viola off, Cora drove back downtown and parked on Douglas, just outside Alan’s of?ce. No one looked twice at her as she climbed down from the car. Just two years earlier, one of the most discussed events of the annual Wheat Show was the Parade of Lady Drivers. Even then, the organizers had no trouble ?nding almost twenty women anxious to display their competence behind the wheels of various cars. Cora had driven the ?fth car in the line, Alan sitting proudly beside her.She had to push hard on the big door to his of?ce, and when she ?nally managed to open it, she saw and felt why. The big window in the front room was open to the rain-cooled breeze, and a huge electric fan was pointed right at her. On her left, two girls she didn’t know sat typing. Alan’s secretary stood behind another desk, using both hands to turn the crank on a rotary duplicating machine. When she noticed Cora, she stopped.“Oh, Mrs. Carlisle! It’s nice to see you!”Cora was aware of a pause in the typing, the typists looking up, taking her in. She was not surprised by their scrutiny. Her husband was a handsome man. Cora smiled at the girls. Both were young, and one was pretty. Neither posed any threat.“Let me tell him you’re here,” his secretary said. She wore an ink-stained apron over her dress.“Oh no,” Cora said, glancing at her watch. “Please don’t bother him. It’s almost ?ve. I’ll just wait.”But the door to Alan’s office opened. He stuck his head out and smiled. “Darling! I thought I heard your voice. What a lovely surprise!”He was already walking toward her, arms outstretched, a sight to behold, really, tall and trim in his three-piece suit. He was twelve years older than Cora, but his light brown hair was still full. She glanced at the typists just long enough to see she had their full attention, as if she were the heroine in a silent ?lm. Alan leaned down to kiss her cheek, smelling faintly of a cigar. She thought she heard someone sigh.“You’re damp,” he said, using two ?ngers to touch the brim of her hat. His tone was lightly scolding.“It’s just sprinkling now, but it might start up again.” She spoke in a low voice. “I stopped by to see if you wanted a ride home. I didn’t mean to interrupt.”It was no bother, he assured her. He introduced her to the typists, praising their skills even as he gently steered her back to his of?ce, his hand on the back of her waist. There were some fellows he wanted her to meet, he said, some new clients from the oil and gas company. Three men stood when she entered, and she greeted them all politely, trying to memorize faces and names. They were pleased to meet her, one said: her husband had spoken so highly of her. Cora feigned surprise, her smile so practiced it seemed real.And then it was ?ve o’clock, time to go. Alan shook hands with the men, put on his hat, took his umbrella from the stand, and jokingly apologized for having to catch his ride home in a hurry. The men smiled at him, at her. Someone suggested a future get-together.His wife could call Cora to see what would be a good evening. “That would be lovely,” she said.When they got outside, the rain had indeed grown more serious. He offered to bring the car around to the front, but she insisted she would be ?ne if he shared his umbrella. They ran to the car together, huddled close, heads lowered. He held open her door and gave her his arm as she climbed up into the passenger seat, his umbrella over her head until she was safe inside.In the car, they were still friendly, though the air between them was always different when they were alone. She told him about the library and the children’s room, and he congratulated her on her good deed. She said she hadn’t been home for most of the day. She would have to warm up some soup for supper, but she had been to the market, and she could make a good salad, and there was bread. A light supper would be ?ne with him, he said. It wasn’t the same, sitting down for a big meal now that the boys were gone, and yet they better get used to it. If they had a quick meal, he added, the two of them could go to a movie later, and see whatever was playing. Cora agreed, pleased with the idea. Hers was the only husband she knew of who would go see anything with her, who had actually sat through The Sheik without rolling his eyes at Valentino. She was lucky in that way. She was lucky in many ways.Still, she cleared her throat.“Alan. Do you know Leonard Brooks?”She waited for his nod, though she already knew the answer. Alan knew all the other lawyers in town.“Well,” she said, “his eldest daughter got into a dance school in New York. He and his wife would like a married woman to chaperone her. For the month of July, and some of August.” She rubbed her lips together. “I think I’ll go.”She glanced at him only brie?y, seeing his surprise, before she turned back to her window. They were already close to home, moving down the tree-lined streets, past their neighbors’ pretty houses and neat lawns. There was much that she would miss while she was away: club meetings and ladies’ teas, the summer picnic in the Flint Hills. She would likely miss the birth of a friend’s fourth child, which was unfortunate, as she was to be the child’s godmother. She would miss her friends, and of course, she would miss Alan. And these familiar streets. But her world would still be here when she returned, and this was her chance to go.Alan was silent until he pulled in front of the house. When he did speak, his voice was quiet, careful. “When did you decide this?”“Today.” She took off her glove and touched a ?ngertip to the glass, tracing a raindrop’s path. “Don’t worry. I’ll come back. It’s just a little adventure. It’s like the twins, going to the farm. I’ll be back before they leave for school.”She looked up at the house, lovely even in the rain, though far too big for them. It was a house built—and bought—for a large family, but given the way things turned out, they’d never used the third ?oor for anything but a playroom, and then for storage. Still, even now that the twins had moved out, neither she nor Alan wanted to sell. They both still loved the quiet neighborhood, and they loved the house, how majestic it looked from the street with its wraparound porch and pointed turret. They reasoned that it would be nice for the twins to be able to come home to a familiar place. They’d kept their rooms as the boys had left them, their beds made, their old books on the shelves, the better to lure them home for summers and holiday breaks.“New York City?” Alan asked.She nodded.“Any reason in particular you want to go there?”She turned, taking in his warm eyes, his cleft, clean-shaven chin. She had been just a girl when she ?rst saw his face. Nineteen years they had lived together. He knew the particular reason.“I might do some digging,” she said. “You’re sure that’s for the best?” “I can speak with Della in the morning about coming in earlier,or staying later. Or both.” She smiled. “If anything, you’ll gain weight.She’s a far better cook than I am.” “Cora.” He shook his head. “You know that’s not what I’m asking.” She turned away, her hand on the door. That was the end of thediscussion. She’d made up her mind to go, and as they both understood very well, for them, that was all there was to it.

Editorial Reviews

"The Chaperone is the enthralling story of two women . . . and how their unlikely relationship changed their lives. . . . In this layered and inventive story, Moriarty raises profound questions about family, sexuality, history, and whether it is luck or will—or a sturdy combination of the two—that makes for a wonderful life."—O, The Oprah Magazine"In her new novel, The Chaperone, Laura Morirty treats this golden age with an evocative look at the early life of silent-film icon Louise Brooks, who in 1922 leaves Wichita, Kansas, for New York City in the company of 36-year-old chaperone, Cora Carlisle. . . . A mesmerizing take on women in this pivotal era."—Vogue"With her shiny black bob and milky skin, Louise Brooks epitomized silent-film glamour. But in Laura Moriarty's engaging new novel The Chaperone, Brooks is just a hyper-precocious and bratty 15-year-old, and our protagonist, 36-year-old Cora Carlisle, has the not-easy mission of keeping the teenager virtuous while on a trip from their native Kansas to New York City. After a battle of wills, there's a sudden change of destiny for both women, with surprising and poignant results."—Entertainment Weekly"Throughout The Chaperone, her fourth and best novel, Laura Moriarty mines first-rate fiction from the tension between a corrupting coastal media and the ideal of heart-of-America morality. . . . . Brooks's may be the novel's marquee name, but the story's heart is Cora's. With much sharpness but great empathy, Moriarty lays bare the settled mindset of this stolid, somewhat fearful woman—and the new experiences that shake that mindset up."—San Francisco Weekly"Film star Louise Brooks was a legend in her time, but the real lead of The Chaperone is Cora Carlise, Brooks' 36-year-old chaperone for her first visit to New York City in 1922. As Cora struggles to tame Louise's free spirit, she finds herself moving past the safety of her own personal boundaries. In this fictional account of Cora and Louise's off-and-on relationship, Laura Moriarty writes with grace and compassion about life's infinite possibilities for change and, ultimately, happiness."—Minneapolis Star Tribune“When silent film star Louise Brooks was a sexually provocative and headstrong 15-year-old from Kansas, she traveled with a chaperone to new York City to attend dance school.  In this fascinating historical novel, her minder, Cora, struggles to keep her charge within the bounds of propriety but finds herself questioning the confines of her own life. Thorough Cora the world of early 20th-century America comes alive, and her personal triumphs become cause for celebration.”—People"Captivating and wise . . . In The Chaperone, Moriarty gives us a historically detailed and nuanced portrayal of the social upheaval that spilled into every corner of American life by 1922. . . . [An] inventive and lovely Jazz Age story."—Washington Post"#1 Summer 2012 novel."—The Christian Science Monitor"A fun romp."—Good Housekeeping"Devour it."—Marie Claire"The novel is captivating, and the last lines about Cora (you might think I’m giving everything away, but I’m not giving anything away—the story rolls through changes in terrain so subtle that it’s like a train from Wichita to New York and back) capsulate it all, revealing the richness of the saga.”—The Daily Beast"The Chaperone," an enchanting, luminous new novel by Laura Moriarty, fictionalizes the tale of the very real caretaker who accompanied a 15-year-old Louise Brooks on the first leg of her journey to silent-movie stardom. . . . Moriarty is a lovely writer, warm and wise."—Cleveland Plain Dealer"It is [Louise Brooks's] endearing and surprising companion Cora Carlisle—a sharply drawn creating—who is the heart and soul of this stirring story.”—Family Circle"Captivating and wise."—Newsday“While Louise lends The Chaperone a dose of fire, the novel’s heart is its heroine, who has a tougher time swimming in the seas of early-20th-century America than her ward does. As the story carries on, Moriarty’s greatest strength proves to be her ability to seamlessly weave together Cora’s present, future and colorful past.”—Time Out“Set to be the hit of the beach read season.”—Matchbook“The challenges of historical fiction are plentiful—how to freely imagine a person who really lived, how to impart modern sensibility to a bygone era, how to do your research without exactly showing your research. And yet, when this feat is achieved artfully (we’re talking Loving Frank or Arthur and George artfully), it can transport a reader to another time and place. Laura Moriarty’s new novel, The Chaperone, falls into this category.”—Bookpage“It’s impossible not to be completely drawn in by The Chaperone. Laura Moriarty has delivered the richest and realest possible heroine in Cora Carlisle, a Wichita housewife who has her mind and heart blown wide open, and steps—with uncommon courage—into the fullness of her life. What a beautiful book. I loved every page.”—Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife“What a charming, mesmerizing, transporting novel! The characters are so fully realized that I felt I was right there alongside them. A beautiful clarity marks both the style and structure of The Chaperone.”—Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab's Wife and Adam & Eve “The Chaperone is the best kind of historical fiction, transporting you to another time and place, but even more importantly delivering a poignant story about people so real, you'll miss and remember them long after you close the book.”—Jenna Blum, author of Those Who Save Us and The Stormchasers