Published by Little, Brown on 4/1/2014
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French burlesque dancer Blanche Beunon and her frog-catching friend Jenny Bonnet, notorious for wearing men’s clothing, might seem an unlikely pair. But their friendship is just the start of the wild events that take place in the summer of 1876, while San Francisco swelters under both a heatwave and an outbreak of the smallpox virus.
Frog Music is based on a snippets from a real-life murder mystery, but the novel’s strength is in its characters. As she did in her last novel, the wildly popular Room, Donoghue writes with deep observation – not just of place, but of people in society. Blanche and Jenny are such vibrant characters that their complexities propel the story just as much as the murder being solved.
“At San Miguel Station, the fifteenth of September stops and starts, stops and starts. Only when Blanche realizes she’s twisting her neck to get out of a puddle of light does she think: day. And then the terror seizes her again.”
The novel flashes back and forth rather quickly, which can feel jarring at times, often disrupting the flow of an otherwise brilliant novel. Still, what Emma Donoghue gives readers with Frog Music is proof that she is able to write just as beautifully in grand expanse as she can in a closed off room.