In the early 1920s, Cora Carlisle, respectable wife and mother, leaves Wichita to chaperone the then-unknown 15-year-old Louise Brooks as she travels to New York City to study with the Denishawn School of Dance. Cora has her own reasons for wanting to be in New York, and during their time in the city, Cora learns not only more about who she is but what kind of person she would like to be and what sort of life she wants to have.
I’ve written a really simplistic plot summary, not just because my window of time in between feeding my twins is very small, but also so that I can leave the bulk of the story to the reader to discover. I really enjoyed this book. Despite the fact that I could only read it in short spurts, it kept my attention and I was always pleased when I could pick up Cora’s story and learn more about her life. The bulk of the story takes place during their New York trip, but the book itself travels throughout Cora’s life, where we can see the consequences of the choices that she and her husband make — and we also get to follow along with Louise as she rises to silent film stardom and back down again.
I liked the pacing of the first two-thirds of the book better than the final third. In the last part of the story, time went by so fast that it felt as if more often we were being told what happened instead of really being a part of the action. And while I didn’t always agree with Cora’s choices, I did like to get into her head and watch her eyes open to the bigger world, with all its faults. As a novel and as a piece of period fiction, it gives us a very interesting look at a time and two different places through the eyes of a woman who slowly starts to realize that she’s got what it takes to find happiness and keep it, as unconventional as it may require her to be.
Rated: Moderate, for three uses of the f-word, all during one drunken conversation. One use of moderate language. Several unmarried sexual relationships, including one between two men; however there is nothing sexually graphic or even particularly sexual at all.