I’m sad to admit that I hadn’t heard of Laura Moriarty until about a year ago. She came to the Tucson Festival of Books and spoke on a panel that I attended. To be honest, that panel is the first one I’ve ever experienced where writers seemed like writers. I’ve attended a lot of YA panels, and while I’m certain there are some brilliant YA authors out there, the ones I’ve observed seem to have accidentally gotten published. They can’t quite describe their writing processes; they are enamored with their own characters and frequently seem to be living in a fantasy world of their own creation. It’s always been disappointing to me how narcissistic and dim-witted most of them have seemed. A few have impressed me, but perhaps the market is sooooo saturated with self-published dystopian love triangles that there are a few too many YA panels. It was lovely, however, to sit in on something a bit more literary that had a more professional air.
Laura Moriarty is a real writer. Her panel made me believe that writing is a craft that requires intelligence, heart, and study. And her novel similarly encouraged me as a reader and as an aspiring writer.
THE CHAPERONE is the story of a 1920s housewife named Cora. She is a proper sort of lady, with little in her life that would seem to warrant a 400-page novel… until she agrees to escort the young, up-and-coming Louise Brooks to New York City for a summer. Slowly but surely, Cora’s past, present and future collide, revealing the sort of life that, in many ways, reveals how I hope to live – with compassion, daring, and humility. I’d be terribly remiss not to also mention the captivating historical back-drop ranging from the orphan trains all the way through the days of VCRs and video tapes.
So, while I’ve been sort of gushing in this review thus far, I believe it’s necessary to tell you that there was one thing that kept THE CHAPERONE from reaching 5-star-status on my Goodreads shelf. While I was overwhelmed with Moriarty’s skill – so much so that I actually gasped at one point in the book – I also have to admit that there were quite a few sections of the book that I wasn’t fully on-board with. Certainly it wasn’t Moriarty’s fault, because there is nothing in her writing that I can critique on any structural, literary level, because it’s as perfect as I’ve seen. And yet, on a personal level, there was something in me that didn’t quite accept Cora’s morality. Mostly, I believed her to be an admirable and realistic character, but I think I either felt that Cora’s morality was being imposed on me or I was imposing my morality on her. There’s no way to tell which it was, but that one inkling did keep me from giving the book the five rating it maybe deserves. Other than that completely arbitrary complaint, it was a delightful book.