A good book enhanced by a good narrator

Cover of The Chaperone
A review of The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty is a solid historical novel and the audiobook, downloadable through Overdrive or available on compact disc through Linkcat, is read by Elizabeth McGovern, the actress who plays Cora on the very popular PBS series Downton Abbey. She is a polished and accomplished reader and her interpretation add to the interesting story of the life of Cora Carlisle, who we meet when she is in her late thirties and is beginning a stint as a chaperone for fifteen Louise Brooks (a real historical figure) as she attends a dance school in New York. During the 1920's and at the height of prohibition Cora and Louise leave Witchita, Kansas and move together to the big city. For Cora it is a job that keeps all of her afternoons free.

Cora has many reasons for taking on this somewhat thankless job. (And Louise does turn out to be a handful.)  Her two sons are leaving for college and she is  in an unhappy marriage. As a child, she was in an orphanage in New York City, and was one of the the orphans taken on the trains that took children presumed to be orphans to the western part of the country and placed them in foster homes. Cora was lucky in that she was taken in by a very kind and loving couple, but they were both killed in an accident and now Cora wants to try to find her birth parents. Although this will not be an easy task, Cora does know the name of the orphanage where she spent her early years.

The first part of the book is set in New York and Moriarty does a great job of incorporating history and the attitudes of the times into the novel. The second half of the book shows Cora's return to Wichita as well as Louise's career as one of the most famous and popular silent movies stars. But although Louise is the famous actress, this book is really Cora's life story. We see Cora mature and come into her own as she ages, as well as getting a feel for life during the turbulent decades that the story covers. This is a great historical novel, worth reading in print, and available as a download or as a compact disc through Linkcat.


I just read LIBRARY JOURNAL's review of this. Their reviewer also liked the story.

What should make this so fantastic as an audiobook was very distracting for me: a main character named Cora narrated by another famous character named Cora. This is probably not a big deal for those who aren't Downton fans, but this was a huge problem for me. I just kept waiting for Cora to say, "Ledddy Meeeerrrrry." This happened to me once before with the Keith Richards book narrated by Johnny Depp. I kept thinking I was listening to Johnny Depp's life and wondering why Johnny was singing for Queen Elizabeth at Westminster Abbey! I ended up reading the hardcover book, instead.

I agree with the Johnny Depp part, I also found him distracting as a narrator, I think the books are different enough, and truly that an autobiography should be read by the author or if that is not possible, then by an professional audio book reader and not a famous actor.