Monday, August 13, 2012

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty


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The book's synopsis from the publisher's website:

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.
I wanted to write a nice, elaborate review to give justice to this wonderful novel because I feel that the most significant aspects of it have somehow been overlooked. Unfortunately, I seem to not be able to write what I really want, so maybe shorter will be better this time.

1. I believe The Chaperone is first and foremost about people's inability and/or unwillingness to change. It's about our judgmental natures and our arrogance rendering 'us' better than 'them' even though we're all human, some women better than other women, even though we're the same gender and in the end we are facing the same challenges. Some of us choose to change and make a change, and that's why humanity moves forward. But some of us choose to stay in denial, live an illusory life that allows them to think their morals are better and the rest of us should live accordingly, unless we want to be judged and condemned for stepping outside the line. This is why even though humanity does move forward, it's also doing it at a snail's pace. Today we, who read The Chaperone are not that much more morally open-minded than Cora and her circle of female friends were in the 1920s, just like they were not all that much better than the society was in The Age of Innocence that Cora was reading when in NYC.

2. Homosexuality is still something many of us have big issues understanding, accepting or wanting to accept. I know that there are many books dealing with homosexuality exclusively, mostly in a form of erotica writing. But I will most likely never read them. That's why The Chaperone is a book that mattered to me so greatly. Thanks to Ms. Moriarty, my heart was shattered over the tragic life of the one homosexual couple in the novel that strangely no one mentioned. I loved this couple so, so much and when their lives came to an end, I just wept at the injustice of this whole, f&$#ed world where because of our stupid arrogance and bigotry we ruin other people, we take away their right to be happy and to show their happiness to the whole world. Oh, I'm still tearing up about it.

Anyway, there's a lot more to the book which almost every other review mentions. I simply wanted to write about what hasn't been mentioned.