Subtitle: A Novel
A New York Times Bestseller
USA Today’s Fiction Pick of the Summer, 2012
On the New York Times Book Review’s Summer Reading List
A BookPage Best Book of 2012
One of BookPage’s 10 Women to Watch in 2012
Indie Next Pick, June 2012
Named the Christian Science Monitor’s #1 Pick of 15 Novels for Summer 2012
A BookPage Book of the Day, June 2012
Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award
Inspired by the real-life relationship between the fifteen-year-old future movie star Louise Brooks and the thirty-six-year-old woman who chaperoned her to New York City for a summer, The Chaperone is the story of an unlikely friendship between two women who couldn’t be more different and the way it changes both their lives.
In the summer of 1922, only a few years before she became a famous actress of the silent screen and an icon for her generation, fifteen-year-old Louise Brooks left Wichita to make it big in New York. Much to her annoyance, she was accompanied by a thirty-six-year-old chaperone who was neither mother nor friend. Little is known about this real chaperone, but Laura Moriarty’s novel imagines her as Cora Carlisle, a complicated but very traditional woman with her own reason for making the trip. Of course, Cora has no idea what she’s in for: young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her black bob with bangs, was known for her arrogance, her lack of respect for convention, and her keen intelligence. Cora is hardly a stranger to adversity, but by the time their train pulls into Grand Central Station, she fears that supervising and protecting her cunning young charge will be at best exhausting and, at worst, impossible. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will change one, if not both, of their lives forever.
For Cora, New York holds the promise of discovery that might provide solace to a lifetime of yearning, and so even as she does her best to endure and watch over Louise in a strange and bustling city, she secretly perseveres on her own mission. She does indeed make a great discovery, and though it isn’t the one she anticipates, it liberates her in a way she could not have imagined. The United States has been steadily moving out of the Victorian era and into the modern world, but the pace has been so much quicker in New York. Over the course of the summer, Cora’s eyes are opened to the promise of the twentieth century, and she returns to Kansas with a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive.
“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
“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, New York Times bestselling author
“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, New York Times bestselling author
“In The Chaperone, Laura Moriarty’s captivating and wise fourth novel, we meet Louise [Brooks] long before her arrival in Hollywood…Moriarty was inspired by the beleaguered real-life chaperone who accompanied Louise on just such a trip, but she has imagined the rest of Cora’s story, which manages to outshine Louise’s…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…[A] inventive and lovely Jazz Age story.”—Washington Post
“[A] fascinating historical novel…Through Cora the world of early twentieth–century America comes alive, and her personal triumphs become cause for celebration.”—People
“A fun romp.”—Good Housekeeping
“It is her endearing and surprising companion Cora Carlisle—a sharply drawn creation—who is the heart and soul of this stirring story.”—Family Circle
“The novel, which spans the next six decades of Cora’s life, also reminds us how dramatically American life changed over the twentieth century. VERDICT: Moriarty is a wonderful storyteller; it’s hard to put this engaging novel down. Fans of the Jazz Age and sweeping historical fiction will likely feel the same way.”—Library Journal (starred review)
“Actress Elizabeth McGovern’s soft-spoken performance is utterly entrancing. Her careful use of emotion and mastery of expression pull listeners into this period piece about a young woman on the road to self-discovery and a girl on the brink of fame. McGovern’s skills at creating distinctive characterizations, including a number of accents, make The Chaperone an outstanding audio experience. Listeners will be fascinated by the historical details of life in New York, the plight of women, and the social customs of the Roaring Twenties. Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award.”—AudioFile
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.