I've had a library hold request on THE CHAPERONE since early summer, and I finally got my turn to read it. Now I'm wishing I had bought my own copy months ago, because I absolutely loved it!
The story is about Cora Carlisle, a 36-year old Kansas housewife and mother of two grown sons, who accompanies a neighbor's teenage daughter on a trip to New York City in the summer of 1922. The girl is Louise Brooks, who would one day be a famous Hollywood star of the silent film era. But in 1922, Louise is a wild and willful 15-year old in need of supervision.
There's much more to the story than Cora babysitting Louise while she takes dance lessons in New York. Cora has her own agenda for making the trip. Her life has become stagnant and the unknowns from her past are partly to blame. What she discovers in New York is the catalyst that changes her life and her way of thinking.
I enjoyed how the author constructed the story, weaving bits of Cora's past into the plot with Louise so we can see the events that shaped her. Many issues are touched on in this book, including women's plight in the early 20th century, child welfare, homosexuality and prejudice. Louise was a tragic figure and difficult to take a times, but she was a product of her past, just like Cora. At least I had a understanding of why she was so difficult.
I loved this book and would recommend it to fans of women's fiction and historical fiction. The book covers the 1890s through the early 1970s, though the main story takes place in 1922. I got pretty attached to the characters in this book, and I was teary-eyed reading the last 13 pages and seeing their stories wrap up. THE CHAPERONE is definitely a top three favorite of mine for 2012.
“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.”