Sharon Bolton's Reviews > Frog Music

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
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really liked it

A chance meeting on the streets of San Francisco brings together Blanche le danseuse: prostitute, Burlesque dancer and property entrepreneur and Jenny: cross-dressing, frog-catching, Penny-Farthing rider. Not long afterwards Jenny is shot dead.

From then on, the timeline splits and we flick from the developing friendship between Blanche and Jenny, watching events unfold that lead to her death, and the subsequent attempts by Blanche to solve the mystery of her friend’s murder and recover her missing baby son.

Frog Music is based on true events: the unsolved murder, in 1876, of Jenny Bonnet and the characters who played out the drama in real life. The research behind the novel must have been extensive because this is a brilliant portrayal of San Francisco in 1876, when the twin forces of an unprecedented heat-wave and a small pox epidemic battered the city’s underbelly, casting a hot and heady shadow over every teeming corner and feeding a maelstrom of racial and civil unrest.

From Music isn’t always an easy read, exploring as it does, the twin themes of the sexual exploitation of women and the abuse of very young children but I loved the characters, all of them vivid, colourful and well drawn. Blanche is adorable, hardworking and cheerful, endlessly optimistic and brave. Jenny is cute and quirky, gloriously individual. The two men, Arthur and Ernest, are wasters and charlatans, clinging to Blanche like parasites, only to throw her off when her devotion to them wanes in the face of a greater need. The supporting cast were all similarly well done, making for a novel that is vivid, intelligent and more than a touch eccentric.

This is my first book by Emma Donoghue and I was surprised to find it hasn’t been particularly well reviewed on Amazon. ‘Not her best,’ being the common refrain. Well, if this isn’t her best, I certainly want to read what is, because I was hugely impressed.
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Reading Progress

April 28, 2014 – Started Reading
April 28, 2014 – Shelved
April 28, 2014 – Finished Reading

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