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Frog Music (2014)

by Emma Donoghue

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,4369412,261 (3.37)127
"Emma Donoghue's explosive new novel, based on an unsolved murder in 1876 San Francisco. Summer of 1876: San Francisco is in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heatwave and a smallpox epidemic. Through the window of a railroad saloon, a young woman called 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"--… (more)
  1. 10
    The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt (tandah)
  2. 00
    Belle Cora by Phillip Margulies (Limelite)
    Limelite: A saga of greater scope, livelier style, and greater originality than Frog Music features the story of a whore (American rather than French) ,and much of it takes place in San Francisco in the same time period as this novel.
  3. 00
    Enemy Women by Paulette Jiles (juniperSun)
    juniperSun: Both are about spunky young women in pioneer times trying to survive hardships.
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» See also 127 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
I really enjoyed Emma Donoghue’s Room so I was keen to read her latest novel. Frog Music is set in San Francisco in 1876, where the city is in the twin grips of a smallpox epidemic and a scorching heat wave. The novel explores the events surrounding an actual murder of the time, that of the cross-dressing frog catcher Jenny Bonnet.

The story is told from the point of view of Jenny’s friend Blanche, a French prostitute who dances and sings at a notorious brothel (another form of Frog Music?). Blanche is in a relationship with the gambling wastrel Arthur, with whom she has a son, P’tit, whom they have abandoned to the care of a baby farm.

Blanche encounters Jenny by accident and an attraction quickly forms. Jenny’s questioning leads Blanche to track down P’tit; she discovers him sickly and in dire need and rescues him, placing her professional and private relationships in immediate danger.

Shortly afterwards, Jenny is dead, shot through the window of a hotel bedroom. Blanche is sure that Arthur is responsible, and that Jenny was an accidental victim of an attempt on Blanche's life. She sets about trying to track down Arthur and avenge Jenny.

This is an entertaining book and a very good crime novel with a bit of a different setting. Donoghue keeps you guessing, and she also does a great job of describing San Francisco and the life of the underclass that Blanche is a part of. The only part of this book that did not ring true for me was that so much of the novel depends on Blanche’s maternal instincts for the misshapen, sickly and unloveable P’tit overcoming all of her desires for the life that she had. I’m afraid Donoghue’s Blanche just did not convince as somebody who would do that. ( )
  gjky | Apr 9, 2023 |
This story just went on and on! I was speed reading this book just to get to the end............... ( )
  wincheryl | Jun 20, 2022 |
Too long, too much of Blanche's thoughts dragging the story. Also no focus. The setting is the smallpox epidemic ravaging California and the discrimination of Chinese immigrants, with subplots (or main plot?) about Jenny's murder, Blanche's suspicions about who the killers are, and Blanche's reconciliation with her son whom she entrusted to an infant farm with her belatedly discovering how poor the care is. The only thing interesting about the book is the setting that the story took place in. ( )
  siok | Mar 5, 2022 |
Really good. Engaging two-strand plot structure, great characters. ( )
  essarbee | Dec 25, 2021 |
A queer historical novel set in 1876 San Francisco about a burlesque dancer whose baby is taken from her and a woman who wears men’s clothes at a time when this was an arrestable offense. Then there’s a murder. This was a little quieter than some of Emma Donoghue’s other books and when I was done I was comparing it unfavorably in my head to my favorite of hers, Life Mask. But the story stuck with me and I keep thinking about it, so I’m realizing this book was actually pretty great. ( )
  jollyavis | Dec 14, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
It’s easy to see why the bare bones of the murder of Jenny (or Jennie, Jeanne or Jeannie) Bonnet (or Bonnett) attracted Ms. Donoghue’s attention. A prolific writer still best known for her huge hit, “Room,” she is drawn to stories of brave, strong women who survive outrageous abuse at the hands of men, and “Frog Music” includes another such situation. Its hot-blooded central character is professionally known as Blanche la Danseuse, though her professional skills include a lot more than dancing
added by ozzer | editNew York Times, Janet Maslin (Apr 7, 2014)
 

» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Emma Donoghueprimary authorall editionscalculated
Hvam, KhristineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
for Margaret Lonergan, friend and muse for a quarter of a century.
First words
Sitting on the edge of the bed in the front room, Blanche stoops to rip at the laces of her gaiters.
Quotations
Men never feel quite the same about a woman's body once they know it's done that thing: widened and torn to push out a baby's head.
All the missing children. Washed into the world against their will, to do their time, a day or a year, before being sent out of it again.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"Emma Donoghue's explosive new novel, based on an unsolved murder in 1876 San Francisco. Summer of 1876: San Francisco is in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heatwave and a smallpox epidemic. Through the window of a railroad saloon, a young woman called 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"--

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Book description
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.
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