Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty (audio)


The Chaperone
by Laura Moriarty
Narrated by Elizabeth McGovern
Penguin Audiobooks, 2012
13 hours and 14 minutes
source: review copy

Publisher's Summary:

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 actress and an icon for her generation, a 15-year-old Louise Brooks leaves Wichita to make it big 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 is a complicated but traditional woman with her own reasons for making the trip. She has no idea what she’s in for: Young Louise, already stunningly beautiful and sporting her famous blunt bangs and black bob, is known for her arrogance and her lack of respect for convention. Ultimately, the five weeks they spend together will change their lives forever.

For Cora, New York holds the promise of discovery that might prove an answer to the question at the center of her being, and even as she does her best to watch over Louise in a strange and bustling city, she embarks on her own mission. And while what she finds isn’t what she anticipated, it liberates her in a way she could not have imagined. Over the course of the summer, Cora’s eyes are opened to the promise of the 20th century and a new understanding of the possibilities for being fully alive.

My thoughts: 

One summer can change a life. For Cora Carlisle, it was the summer of 1922 when she chaperoned a young Louise Brooks in New York City.

The Chaperone is a remarkable novel not only for its sense of time and place (New York City and Kansas in the early 20th century), but for its portrayal of Cora's personal growth and development as she searches for her roots, comes to terms with a loveless marriage, and begins to forge a new outlook on life. Her initial narrowness and naivete eventually give way to broader understanding, acceptance, and eventual happiness.

A beautiful novel - highly recommended.

A note on the audio production:

There's no good lead-in, so here it is:  I didn't love Elizabeth McGovern's narration of The Chaperone.

In fact, as much as I hate to admit it, her voice actually put me off in the beginning. The vast majority of listeners rave about this production, but McGovern's 'normal' accent seemed (to me) precious and affected at times, while her Kansas voice was simply grating. Do people really sound like that in Kansas? I don't know. However, by the end of the second CD, I'd grown accustomed to her narration (it's a far cry from Downton Abbey, folks) and settled in to enjoy the story.

 In the end, it was an average production of a superior novel.

Read or listen?
It's a toss-up. Either way, don't miss this book.

My rating:

39 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Harvee - I hope you do... it's a great book!

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  2. Too bad that the narrator let you down. I don't care much for her accent (affected American? I've no idea) in Downtown Abbey either...

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    1. Chinoiseries - The novel was still a joy, regardless of accents.

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  3. Everyone has said the same thing about Mcgovern's narration. I love her, but she was obviously not the right choice for the audio book.

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    1. Ti - I still think I'm in the minority, but have found several other reviews that were less than thrilled with the narration.

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  4. This book has been on my radar for a while, but your review has made me want to get to it sooner rather than later!

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    1. Sam - It's an excellent novel... one that you won't want to miss!

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  5. Hi JoAnn! This sounds really wonderful and I so I just added to the wish list. I'll get it on paper. :) Btw, I've been having trouble commenting here so sometimes I just give up. I can't use my self-hosted site to comment, so need to log on to my old WordPress site for that. Just to let you know. Tc!

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    1. Claire! It's so nice to see you! I must have missed the feed change for your self-hosted sight, but have just added you to my reader. Also, I was having trouble with spam and changed some comment settings. Sorry to hear that has made it more difficult for you. I'm back to the original settings now... fingers crossed that the spammers don't find out ;-)

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    2. Thank you! Oh I hope you don't get spammed! :)

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  6. See I thought her narration was spectacular! I wonder if opinions have been swayed by their Downton Abby preferences? I have loved her as an actress since Ordinary People and She's Having a Baby. I know she was born and raised in Illinois, but has lived in London for quite some time. Well anyway, I loved everything about this reading experience. Such a deep, multi-faceted story that addresses so many issues!

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    1. Sandy - Downton Abbey may figure into it, but I am definitely on the minority here. LOVED the story, the writing, the language... but was less enthusiastic about the narration.

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  7. I just put it in my library 'book bag' - the print version!

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    1. Nan - Loved the story... print may be the better option :-)

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  8. I just listened to the audio sample and have decided it's not for me. I agree with you about EM's narration--It's pretty poor. I don't think I've heard people from Kansas speaking like that. Maybe North Dakota! If I read it, it will be in the print format.

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    1. Les - As much as I love EM, the print format may have the advantage here. Her Kansas accent actually has some characteristics reminiscent of upstate NY, so maybe it represents a 'type'.. but I've never been in North Dakota either.

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  9. I've seen The Chaperone on my the library shelves but so far haven't brought it home. After reading your recommendation maybe next time!

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    1. Cat - It is a wonderful novel... very highly recommended. I hope you get a chance to read it.

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  10. After reading Louise Brooks's terrific memoir, Lulu in Hollywood, I think this book is a must read. Sounds great.

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    1. Fay - I'd never heard of Louise Brooks prior to this novel. Now I'm inclined to search out her memoir.

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  11. i was one of the listeners who was a bit turned off by the reader McGovern.

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    1. Diane - The narration ratings are very high on audible. Glad to know I'm not alone.

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  12. I've heard all good things about this one so I know I really need to read it!

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    1. Kathleen - It's an excellent book.

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  13. I read this in print and loved it. You're not the first to say the narration wasn't the best on this audio.

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    1. Kathy - Print may be the way to go with this one.

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  14. I'm not a big audio book fan, but I think this is one that I will enjoy in print. Great review.

    2 Kids and Tired Books

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    1. Holly - Thanks. You should enjoy this in print :-)

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  15. Oh, no! We were really going to like this one as an audiobook weren't we? I have it on my Ipod ao I may still listen...

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    1. Audrey - I know!! After settling in, the audio was still enjoyable. Just can't help thinking I would have liked it even more in print.

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  16. Choices, choices....I guess either way I have to read it!!!

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    1. Staci - Yes, one way or the other read the book. I know you'll like this one!

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  17. And we were just talking on twitter about how audio can really affect a book. I do have the audio version of this one but I keep forgetting about it (or I keep getting pulled into readalongs). I didn't realize McGovern was the narrator but I can hear her voice in my head and can see what you mean. Glad you were still able to really enjoy the book despite the lackluster audio.

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    1. Trish - Luckily, the story was enough to carry me along. This wasn't a bad production like the one just experienced though.

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  18. Everyone seems to love this one. I appreciate your honesty about the audio!!

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    1. Stacybuckeye - It really is a great book, but nothing special in the audio department.

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  19. Glad I read this one instead of listening to it - but I'm glad you liked it even tho' you had the narration issue to overcome.

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    1. Lisa - Reading was probably the better option, but I really enjoyed The Chaperone.

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