The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


July 27, 2012

Lee Duran: Books capture buzz for different reasons

JOPLIN, Mo. — Two books have drawn my attention during the last week. Each is aimed at a different kind of reader and they couldn’t be more different.

“The Twelve” by Justin Cronin: This is the second book in the Passage trilogy. Book one, “The Passage,” was an international bestseller and gained much critical acclaim.

The series began with a government experiment that went horribly wrong, leading to a manmade apocalypse. This does not appeal to me, personally, but those who love this kind of thing loved the first book and will likely feel the same about the second.

Cronin is a professor of English at Rice University. I’ll give the man credit; he’s got one heck of an imagination.

I can’t even begin to explain the plot, which, according to reports, involves three strangers “navigating the chaos” while characters introduced in the first book hunt the original 12 virals, all of which lead to “an epic tale of sacrifice and survival” which surges to a “breathtaking sequel.”  

I read part of the first book and I never did figure all of it out. Others thought it was great so if you like that sort of thing, here it is again.

“Cronin’s unguessable plot and appealing characters will seize your heart and mind,” Parade said of the first book. We’ll see if this one is equally popular.

“The Chaperone” by Laura Moriarty.  It was USA Today’s No. 1 Hot Fiction Pick for the summer, but that’s not why it appeals to me. This story contains a whole lot that I like even before I open the cover.

 It’s set in the 1920s and ‘30s, a time period I find fascinating. There was a lot going on back then that plays into the book: orphan trains, Prohibition, flappers, the onset of the Great Depression and “the burgeoning movement for equal rights and new opportunities for women.” Hemlines were rising, values and attitudes were changing.

The second thing I like is that the story concerns hellion Louise Brooks, an actress during the days of silents who threw her career right out the window when sound arrived. Her story is fascinating and sometimes sad.

But “The Chaperone” concerns not only 15-year-old Louise, but the virtually unknown woman who chaperoned her from her Wichita home to New York City in 1922. It’s an understatement to say that the trip changed them both, although the chaperone presented here is fictitious.

The purpose of the trip was for Louise to study with the “prestigious” Denishawn School of Dancing Ñ and before her next birthday, she became a member of the company. Already known for her arrogance and lack of respect for convention, she proved a handful for Cora Carlisle, the 36-year-old chaperone.

Not surprisingly, “the five weeks they spend together will transform their lives forever.”

Reviewers also like this book.

“In her new novel, ‘The Chaperone,’ Laura Moriarty treats this golden age with an evocative look at the early life of silent-film icon Louise (Brooks) É A mesmerizing take on women in this pivotal era,” Vogue said.

I expect to completely agree.

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