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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

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The Chaperone

The Chaperone - Laura Moriarty

I first had the pleasure of reading Laura Moriarty's debut novel The Center of Everything many years ago and meeting her shortly after. What a pleasure both her novel and her friendly and open personality were. The Center of Everything was by no means perfect, but it was a very strong debut. And here was an author I could believe in, someone coming out of Kansas with real talent and genuine character.

I followed Moriarty into her second and third novels. I hate to say it because I really liked Moriarty and I loved The Center of Everything, but The Rest of Her Life was a massive disappointment and While I'm Falling was hard to even finish. Sounds harsh? Yeah, I agree. But I've heard the same sentiments from others. I like to blame the decline in pressure from the publisher—suddenly Laura Moriarty was “the next Jodi Picoult” (which she wasn't)—but I do not know the true reason Moriarty's style changed so much. And frankly, it doesn't matter.

I know some people gave up on the author after her second novel. Some after her third. Let me just say one thing to those who have lost their faith: Laura Moriarty is back.

The Chaperone is a new direction for Moriarty and a refreshing change from the forgettable characters and events of her last two novels. The story is interesting. The setting is vivid. Moriarty shows great skill in blending factual events from the life of silent film star Louise Brooks with her fictional work. Brooks is a vehicle for the larger plot, but Moriarty is careful not to cross the line where the actress' inclusion becomes too convenient (this is perhaps not so much true in later chapters, but she only barely steps over the line).

There may be disappointment for some when they realize The Chaperone isn't a novel about Louise Brooks. Even though the description on the dust jacket and the title itself should be an indication that this novel is much more the story of Moriarty's protagonist, Cora Carlisle, it is surprising at times how much Brooks is relegated to a secondary character, especially after the first half (which I can't help but wonder if this wasn't a brilliantly drawn parallel to Brooks' own dwindling career). Nevertheless, the fictional account of Brooks' summer in New York in 1922 should please many of her fans.

I wish The Chaperone immense success. I believe most fan will agree, if they give it a chance, that it's a huge step in the right direction.

Welcome back, Laura.