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Moriarty elegantly dovetails the stories of two vastly different women poised on the brink of self-discovery. When an immensely talented Louise Brooks destined to become the toast of Hollywood is accepted into a five-week summer course at the prestigious Dennishawn School of Dance in New York City, all the prematurely worldly 15-year-old needs is a suitable chaperone. After all, in 1922 even girls as advanced as Louise need to present a veneer of propriety. The unlikely candidate turns out to be Cora Carlise, a highly regarded and extremely respectable Wichita matron. Although it initially appears that empty-nester Cora merely longs for an exciting change of scenery from her staid, middle-class life in Kansas, it soon becomes clear that she has a hidden agenda of her own. As Cora clashes with her headstrong charge, the heartrending truth about both her childhood and her marriage is revealed. Despite her irreverent and deliberately provocative attitude, Louise, too, harbors tragic secrets of her own. A book-club favorite (The Center of Everything, 2003, and The Rest of Her Life, 2007), the always engrossing Moriarty has combined real-life and fictional characters to great effect as both Cora and Louise end up defying the conventional expectations of the era with mixed results.--Flanagan, Margaret Copyright 2010 Booklist
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Moriarty (While I'm Falling) skims the surface of 1920s life in Wichita, Kans., where homosexuality, contraception, and being just about anything other than white and Protestant is considered a moral offence. In the summer of 1922, prim, married Cora Carlisle chaperones a young Louise Brooks, the silent film star, to New York. Cora keeps mum about her own childhood journey from the New York Home for Friendless Girls to a new life with an adopted family in Kansas, because she intends to search for her birth mother once she and Louise arrive. What follows the trip for Louise is history: film stardom until the advent of sound. What follows for Cora is at first a letdown for the reader, and then highly dubious, given her naive and conservative nature. Though what happens in New York gives Cora a new moral order, for the rest of her life she keeps it, too, a secret. The novel, which in its final stretch races to 1982, attempts to portray Cora as a heroine buffeted by the bigotry and priggishness of the Jazz Age, but glosses over events and neglects the inner lives of many of its characters. Agent: Tracy Fisher, WME Entertainment. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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With her bobbed black hair and strikingly red lipstick, Louise Brooks was a femme fatale in early Hollywood movies. In this latest novel from Moriarty (The Center of Everything), a teenage Louise heads to New York City in 1922 from her home in Wichita, chaperoned by proper Kansas matron Cora Carlisle. Once in New York, Louise is accepted by the renowned Denishawn School of Dancing and is on her way to fame. An innocent young adult she is not-hard as nails, she is both self-promoting and self-destructive. The real story here, however, is about Cora, a kind soul despite the shocks she has endured at several crucial times in her life. Cora's visit to New York gives her a new perspective and changes her life in unexpected ways. The novel, which spans the next six decades of Cora's life, also reminds us how dramatically American life changed over the 20th century. VERDICT Moriarty is a wonderful storyteller; it's hard to put this engaging novel down. Fans of the Jazz Age and sweeping historical fiction will likely feel the same way. [See Prepub Alert, 12/5/11.]-Leslie Patterson, Rehoboth, MA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.