Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
I was immediately taken aback by Frog Music – and that doesn’t happen very often. The portrayal of the underbelly of San Francisco in the 1870’s, with the raging smallpox epidemic, the underlying racial tension with Chinese immigrants, and the oppressive heat, was fascinating. Donoghue’s characters were unlikeable and flawed but the story she weaves with them is so fascinating. I’ve seen that the book has been marketed as a sort of mystery but I think that’s selling the book a little short and might leaves readers expecting a mystery-thriller disappointed. A great, surprising book!
Summer of 1876: San Francisco is in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heat wave and a smallpox epidemic. Through the window of a railroad saloon, a young woman named Jenny Bonnet is shot dead.
The survivor, her friend Blanche Beunon, is a French burlesque dancer. Over the next three days, she will risk everything to bring Jenny’s murderer to justice–if he doesn’t track her down first. The story Blanche struggles to piece together is one of free-love bohemians, desperate paupers, and arrogant millionaires; of jealous men, icy women, and damaged children. It’s the secret life of Jenny herself, a notorious character who breaks the law every morning by getting dressed: a charmer as slippery as the frogs she hunts.
In thrilling, cinematic style, Frog Music digs up a long-forgotten, never-solved crime. Full of songs that migrated across the world, Emma Donoghue’s lyrical tale of love and bloodshed among lowlifes captures the pulse of a boomtown like no other.