Book Review: The Chaperone
For the past month I’ve been with my two granddaughters, Q (age 14 going on 21) and Lou (a precocious 8 year-old). It has been pure pleasure for me in many ways. Lou sees the world through positive, yet realistic eyes. She has a strong empathetic nature which makes her very sympathetic to other people. Q has always had a very realistic and honest approach to people and their foibles. It’s something I find very refreshing.
Spending time with them gives me a great deal of hope for the future – both our family’s future and that of our culture. During their visit I managed to finish reading The Chaperone. In my mind it seemed to fit. While observing the real lives of my granddaughters, I was also looking at the lives of two historical women. The circumstances were very different and yet I could see similarities.
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The Chaperone is the story of two Wichita, Kansas women in the 1920s. One woman is in her mid thirties and the other is fifteen. Cora Carlisle is married with two college-age boys off working for the summer. Louise Brooks is a teenager with big dreams. She wants to be in the theater.
Louise’s parents have arranged dance lessons at a prestigious dance school in New York City, but she needs a chaperone. Cora has a desire to go to New York City also. She had come from New York City as ahild to Kansas on an Orphan Train. Her secret goal is to go back and find information on her biological parents.
Cora and Louise take the train out of Wichita and the adventure begins. Cora discovers that Louise isn’t an easy, congenial girl. Louise has a mind of her own and is determined to experience to the fullest everything she can. Cora soon learns that being a chaperone to Louise is not going to be an easy job.
As the two women each pursues her goals, they gradually learn a lot about themselves and each other. For the reader it’s an interesting contrast between the very conservative, restrictive way in which Cora believes women should behave and Louise’s determination to break out of all conventionald roles society has set for her.
Since Louise’s character is based on a real-life silent film-star, we know how the future turns out for her. Looking at Louise’s life and then at my granddaughter’s live, I shuddered. Even though our Q (14 going on 21) is quite mature, even she knows tackling New York City or any wide-open space on her own is not a good thing right now. Louise and Q share the ability to look at society and see the inconsistencies and that is a good thing.
I can definitely recommend The Chaperone to fellow reader. Although there were times when I thought the author went a little overboard on the history portions, it was overall an excellent and well-told story.