Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Chaperone

Laura Moriarty
The Chaperone

Riverhead Books, 2013

Wichita, 1922. Cora Carlisle is a woman in her thirties, her husband lawyer’s exemplary wife and mother of two grown-up sons, who went to college. From a neighbor she finds out that Mira Brook, known in town woman, is looking for her daughter, Louise Brooks, a well-known actress in the future, a chaperone. Louise, who is already 15 years, is a good dancer who should go to New York, where she will dance with the famous troupe, and if she shows excellent results, she can expect going on a tour. Cora, in general, is not too close acquaintance with the family of Brooks, have a desire to go to New York, not because she wants to accompany Louise, but because with Cora comes from New York originally. At small age the girl had been tossed in the shelter where Cora was raised by Catholic nuns. In New York, Cora hopes to find that shelter, where she was planted, and then, perhaps, her mother, if she is still alive.

In this novel, there are no beautiful style, no complicated structure, there is no change of the narrator. The Chaperone has only one storyline and attention to details. The book is written in the third person, which is almost the first, but don’t confuse the author and protagonist of the book Cora. Moriarty knows Cora’s vices and does not try to hide them. Between Cora Carlisle, a fictional heroine, and Louise Brooks, a real actress, there are parallels . Both in fact a victim of circumstances and since childhood more and more enveloped himself a web of lies and illusions. Only everything turned out relatively well for Cora, but Louise because of her nature has taken the path of self-destruction. Brooks, a child left without a mother's love, was devoted to herself , hence her narcissism. She drowned her failures in alcohol and complained that everybofy is looking at her on the screen, but can not see her. Meanwile the self-destruction made its way, and the actress herself did not want to notice that, she no longer draws attention, because she makes a mockery of herself. Cora on the contrary did not try to destroy my life, but tried to unite the life of others, but she succeeded only because of the first lie, and then because of the other.

The narrative keeps the tension, gradually revealing Cora’s past. And seemingly ordinary book is already not so ordinary when the secrets of the 20s are starting to unfold. We had a wonderful era, Cora could tell about that time, only there were as much as vices there as in the 70's or 90's. From women's prose you are certainly not expecting first the appearance of the homosexual, then infidelity with a foreigner worker, then child molestation, surprise proposal to shelter a lover and his daughter. Cora when talking with Louise expresses herself very soberly, with courtesy and at the same time with hypocrisy inherent in that time. Louise is a harbinger of a new era, the era of drunken celebrities, endless divorces, escapes to Europe from debts.

The book’s finale is somewhat disappointing – it’s too long. Actually, the book should end as Cora, a German and his daughter go to Wichita. The rest of family life - who he married who, when who died - dragged in here just to describe what happened to Brooks after New York. Since Brooks is fairly one-dimensional and minor character, it is not really interesting to know what she did after New York and what became of her.

This largely a brave and trim book would win, if cut by a quarter by its editor.

1 comment:

  1. This was a winner. So many interesting characters & some shocking behavior for the time. I kept me glued to the end.

    Cleo Rogers (Puyallup Plumbing)