The Chaperone

  • by Laura Moriarty
  • Narrated by Elizabeth McGovern
  • 13 hrs and 14 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

The unabridged, downloadable audiobook edition of Laura Moriarty's The Chaperone, read by the actress Elizabeth McGovern, best-known for her role as Cora, Countess of Grantham, in the hit TV series Downton Abbey.
On a summer's day in 1922, Cora Carlisle boards a train from Wichita, Kansas, to New York City, leaving behind a marriage that's not as perfect as it seems and a past that she buried long ago.
She is charged with the care of a stunning young girl with a jet-black fringe and eyes wild and wise beyond her 15 years. This girl is hungry for stardom, and Cora is hungry for something she doesn't yet know.
Cora will be many things in her lifetime - an orphan, a mother, a wife, a mistress - but in New York she is a chaperone and her life is about to change. It is here, under the bright lights of Broadway, in a time when prohibition reigns and speakeasies with their forbidden whispers behind closed doors thrive, that Cora finds what she has been searching for. It is here, in a time when illicit thrills and daring glamour sizzle beneath the laws of propriety that her life truly begins. It is here that Cora and her charge, Louise Brooks, take their first steps towards their dreams.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Every little breeze seems to whisper "Louise"...

Most of the audiobooks I listen to tend to be classics or things I have already read; since I often listen while doing housework, I find it helpful to know the story, and like to know I will enjoy listening to it before buying. Unusually for me, I bought Laura Moriarty's "The Chaperone" on spec, mainly because I have liked the narrator, Elizabeth McGovern, as an actress for many years, and because, having read a biography of the film star Louise Brooks, one of the main characters, I was intrigued by the idea of a fictional treatment of her life. In fact, Louise is a largely tangential character; the novel, which is a solid written piece of what might be termed "women's fiction", is really about the "chaperone" of the title, a 36 year old married woman called Cora Carlisle, who accompanies the teenaged Louise to New York when she goes there to study dancing, and whose own life is unexpectedly changed in the process.

The real life Louise Brooks seems to have been a brittle, damaged woman, whose great beauty, talent and enormous intelligence tapped right into the zeitgeist of the 1920s and catapulted her into a brief but meteoric career as a movie star. Laura Moriarty captures this difficult personality well when writing about the teenaged Louise, and one can relate to the unfortunate Cora's frustration with her wayward charge. But Cora, an intelligent, kind, but rather uptight woman, has come to New York with an agenda of her own, and when she returns to the orphanage where she grew up in search of her origins, she finds herself learning far more about herself than she has expected. While some of her subsequent life choices seem a little startling (and frankly hard to believe considering how conventional the character is at the start), the author is commendably even-handed and compassionate towards her characters. It would be easy, for example for her to have made villains of Cora's husband, who married her under false pretences and betrayed her, or the nuns who ran the orphanage from whence Cora was adopted (in a time when stories about adoption so often focus on cruelty towards the relinquishing mothers, the author's measured descriptions of the whys and wherefores of the adoption policies of the early 20th century are thankfully spot on). Even Louise's narcissistic, neglectful mother, surely the most unsympathetic character in the entire book, gets a fair hearing, which it seems doubtful she deserves.

Elizabeth McGovern gives an insensitive and intelligent reading of this imaginitive and unusual novel, and is a delight to listen to. I am happy to recommend this book, and hope others enjoy it as much as I did.
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- Millamant

Book Details

  • Release Date: 04-26-2012
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd