“Frog Music” by Emma Donoghue

7 May
"Frog Music" by Emma Donoghue

“Frog Music” by Emma Donoghue

The summer of 1876 was a harrowing time to be in San Francisco. A heat wave exacerbated a smallpox epidemic. Life would have been difficult enough without those travails, as the protagonists of the book know. One, Jenny Bonnet, lives outside the law as a cross-dresser, and her newly found friend, Blanche Beunon, a saloon dancer and courtesan, is the sole breadwinner in her unusual family. Both women have backstories of damage, abuse, and heartbreak, which are expertly revealed, bit-by-bit, by Donoghue.

The book opens with Jenny’s murder. (Donoghue fictionalized an account of a real, unsolved crime.) Blanche’s attachment to Jenny and concern for her own safety draw her to investigate, and in the process she learns Jenny’s secrets that were meant to remain hidden.

This was a raw time in our history, when life was cheap.  The historical backdrop comprises anti-Chinese riots, “orphanages” for unwanted children, and of course, the running theme of the domestic abuse both Jenny and Blanche try to whitewash.

It’s a rich setting, and Donoghue pairs it with a fast paced plot.  Is it Jenny’s eccentric persona that invites her murder, or were Blanche’s own messy relationships the catalyst for that? The ancillary characters are colorful, and the motif of contemporary music is engaging. Donoghue really did her homework in preparing this book, and every page is a pleasure.

–Leslie Tate

About these ads

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 81 other followers

%d bloggers like this: