Frog Music

A Novel

Donoghue, Emma

(Book - 2014)
Average Rating: 3 stars out of 5.
Frog Music
"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"--
Publisher: New York :, Little, Brown and Company,, 2014.
Edition: First Edition.
ISBN: 0316371459
Characteristics: 405 pages ;,25 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Feb 06, 2015
  • brianreynolds rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

It’s hardly my place to tell Emma Donoghue she should change this or that in what has to be one the most readable, most entertaining, most horrifying, most delicious historical novels I’ve read: <i>Frog Music</i>. But I so wished it could have been about Jenny Bonnet instead of Blanche Beunon. Not that Blanche didn’t make the better representative of 19th century San Francisco and the better commentary on the plight of women and the better protagonist in terms of character development and the most likely to be tied to a railway track by Snidely Whiplash and the most likely to be dense enough to justify plenty of suspense, but Jenny is more likely to star in my memory of the book since she is a 21st century delight.

Feb 04, 2015
  • jmikesmith rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

I'm torn on this one. This is an engaging and fascinating fictionalized version of a true story about a murder in 1876 San Francisco. But... there were a few things about the style and structure of the story that seemed like gimmicks and distracted me from the progress of the narrative.

The murder victim is Jenny Bonnet, a 27-year-old tomboyish woman who likes to wear pants (apparently a crime at the time) and hunt for frogs to supply local restaurants. Early in the story, she crosses paths with Blanche Beunon, a 24-year-old dancer, who dances for a male audience at an establishment known as the House of Mirrors. Jenny and Blanche were both born in France and emigrated to San Francisco, Jenny as a young girl and Blanche just a little over a year before the story opens. Blanche believes her lover of nine years and father to their one-year-old son may be behind the murder, but can't make up her mind what to tell the authorities.

Emma Donoghue paints a fully engrossing picture of San Francisco, with its mix of businessmen, prostitutes, Chinese and other immigrants, reporters, pub keepers, and policemen. It's still the Wild West, but in a city growing too rapidly for the authorities to contain all of the social challenges of such a diverse population. The actual murder mystery, however, doesn't seem substantial enough to drive the entire novel. There is a subplot about Blanche's son that adds both tension and humour, but that in the end feels inconsequential.

Further complicating the story is the novel's structure. The story moves back and forth between the month before the murder, when Jenny and Blanche meet, and the few days after it, when Blanche tries to deal with her friend's death and its effect on her own life. While Donoghue always lets us know when we are, it's sometimes difficult to keep track of what the characters know. We know the futures that they haven't lived yet. I suspect this structure was used partly to put the murder at the beginning of the book, even though it occurs near the chronological end of the story. As a result, most of the story is about the growth of Jenny's and Blanche's friendship. The police procedural, murder-solving part is actually a fairly small part of the story, even though the book comes across as a genre crime novel.

In addition, both story lines (pre- and post-murder) are told in the present tense, which feels a little odd in a historical novel. Blanche is the viewpoint character, and we see everything through her eyes. She is naive and vain, but Donoghue is skilled at making the reader understand things Blanche does not herself fully comprehend.

This is an ambitious first crime novel from a dramatic writer. The historical research is evident, but the plot structure and the overall thinness of the plot detract from the rich portrait of a city in transition.

Jan 21, 2015
  • LPL_ShirleyB rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Donoghue focuses on the true story of a 19th century cross-dressing frog catcher.

Jan 17, 2015
  • gerimark rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

set in SF. Parisian burlesque dancer and free-spirited friend who winds up dead. smallpox/heatwave factor in.

Nov 30, 2014
  • libraryrachelf rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

Frog Music was an interesting and engaging story, based on historical events. Emma Donoghue writes the story of 2 woman who become friends in the late 1870's in San Francisco. The women are both fascinating characters who are based on well researched historical records. Donoghue does an amazing job to bring Blanche Beunon and Jenny Bonnet to life. The book is also rich in the history of the heat wave and smallpox epidemic that held the city during the this time. The book also incorporated popular folk music of the time adding to the history of the book. Frog music was both a good read of a still unsolved murder, as well as a glimpse into the history of San Francisco and some of the people who inhabited the nouveaux city.

Oct 19, 2014
  • 671books rated this: 2.5 stars out of 5.

Meh. I thought this book was ok, but the writing style was difficult and choppy. I felt there was no flow to the story.

Full review here: http://671books.net/fiction/frog-music/

Sep 06, 2014
  • Roxannigan rated this: 1.5 stars out of 5.

Amateurish and superficially written. Too bad, could have been an interestingly told tale

Aug 25, 2014

Found it a little tedious and hard to keep reading as it wasn't really engaging though by the time you get to the last 20 pages of the book, everything picks up...that is, if you can bear the first three quarters of the book! Jenny's character is very interesting though you don't find that out unless you keep on reading!

It’s the 1870's in San Francisco, a small pox epidemic and heat wave are the backdrop around the lives of two rather unconventional and very independent women. Not surprisingly, women of the day had few options – our heroines have a lot of pluck, though one of them not so much luck. A gritty murder mystery filled with historic detail that will appeal to readers of women’s fiction as well as historical fiction buffs.

Jul 11, 2014
  • marinka rated this: 1 stars out of 5.

Such a tedious read I gave up half way through - page after page seemed to comprise of dull, endless filler. I didn't care about the characters and the inane decisions they made. Blanche strikes me as a cliche and not a bright one at that. Unfortunate because I enjoyed Room and Slammerkin

View All Comments


Add a Summary

Jul 10, 2014
  • PrairieStar rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Listened to the downloadable MP3 and had a hard time putting it down. The jumping back and forth in time got a bit old, especially when it was just a rehash of information covered previously.

Jul 09, 2014

A gilded age prostitute has a relationship with a gentleman of the night. A typhoid epidemic hits San Francisco. The book is rich in period details. The appendix also has much helpful information.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Notice

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Find it at CLEVNET


Powered by BiblioCommons.
app13 Version nodvandig Last updated 2015/03/03 19:57