Published: New York : Little, Brown and Company, 2014 Description: 405 pages ; 25 cm ISBN/ISSN: 9780316324687 (hardback), 031632468X (hardback), Language: English
"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"--
From the critically acclaimed author Emma Donoghue comes the first novel since the best-selling book Room. Frog Music opens in 1876 San Francisco with the murder of Jenny Bonnet, a brash cross-dressing American frog catcher. Her friend and exotic dancer Blanche Beunon witnesses the murder and tries to bring the killers to justice while searching for her infant son.
Perhaps what makes the novel most fascinating is that Donoghue has taken facts from the real murder and weaved them into her novel. Many of her characters were real people that she pulled from newspapers articles and court documents from the time. The characters in Frog Music are vivid and seedy with conflicting internal desires. Blanche wants to be a loving mother, but is continually frustrated and annoyed with her infant son. She wants to be in control of her earnings, but is letting her “fancy men” take advantage of her and use the money to gamble. At the heart of the story is a friendship between two women, but as Blanche realizes, Jenny was a person that was “easy to enjoy, but hard to know”. As I wound through the tale, I became hooked on trying to solve the murder and drawn into the lives of so many vivid characters. Woven through the book are song lyrics of the time, including French, American, and Creole folk songs.
While Emma Donoghue is most widely known for her bestselling book Room, she really shines in her works of historical fiction. I would highly recommend Astray, a collection of short stories based on historical events. Here is a brief interview with Emma Donoghue where she discusses the actual events of the crime and her research process of writing Frog Music.