Happy Publication Day to Emma Donoghue for Frog Music….here’s my review:
San Francisco, 1876: a stifling heat wave and smallpox epidemic have engulfed the City.
Deep in the streets of Chinatown live three former stars of the Parisian circus: Blanche, now an exotic dancer at the House of Mirrors, her lover Arthur and his companion Ernest.
When an eccentric outsider joins their little circle, secrets unravel, changing everything – and leaving one of them dead.
Frog Music, inspired by true events, is an evocative novel of intrigue and murder: elegant, erotic and witty.
Frog Music is a historical fiction novel interwoven with a murder mystery and mild erotica. It’s primarily about the real case of the unsolved murder of Jenny Bonnet (pronounced Bonnay) in San Francisco in the late 19th century. It has a dual time line which has the night of the murder and the following events running concurrently with the preceding story of how Blanche and Jenny met, their life stories etc.
Predominantly Blanche is the protagonist but I felt she was overshadowed by Jenny’s character even though she’s actually dead for at least half of the book. However, Jenny was by far my favourite character. I loved her independence, care free spirit and that she didn’t conform to the norm even though it landed her in trouble with the law. There are also a lot of interesting supporting characters, some you’ll love but most you’ll despise by the end.
The book’s really well written I could almost feel the heat and smell the air and overall it reminded me more of stories set in the Deep South rather than California, so much so that I expected them all to speak with a southern drawl. I absolutely loved the cover and again think it’s very New Orleans and Mardi Gras.
As I was reading I was wondering who had murdered Jenny and constantly changed my mind, flipping back and forth. The author does a good job of coming to her own conclusions given the evidence at hand which must have taken an incredible amount of research and the epilogue giving the facts and backgrounds of the real people is a really interesting feature.
I was glad that I had this book to read on my Kindle so I could use the dictionary and the translation as there’s a lot of French in here, some I could understand from my school days but not all and a lot of it was actually French sex slang!
Overall, this is a great read that fans of historical and crime fiction will enjoy. One of my favourites of this year so far!
Many thanks to Netgalley for approving me for an advanced review copy.
Born in 1969, Emma Donoghue is an Irish writer who spent eight years in England before moving to Canada. Her fiction includes Slammerkin, Life Mask, Touchy Subjects and the international bestseller Room (shortlisted for the Man Booker and Orange Prizes).
More books by Emma Donoghue: The Sealed Letter, Astray and Three and a Half Deaths.