Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

The story of Frog Music takes us to San Francisco in the scorching hot summer of 1876. Smallpox has ripped through the city where we are introduced to  Blanche Beunon, a French burlesque dance who dances her way into mens' hearts and pockets at the House of Mirrors. On an ordinary walk home from her night dancing Blanche is bowled down by a woman dressed in men's clothing riding a Pennyfarthing and so begins the start of Blanche and Jenny's unusual friendship.

Jenny is a rebel dressed in men's clothes and a free spirit with no home of her own to lay her head. Jenny talks as she pleases but her free-thinking ways soon have Blanche questioning the life that Arthur and her have set up in San Francisco

The book opens on the night of Jenny's murder. Fleeing from Blanche's lover Arthur, a former circus performer and his companion Ernest, Jenny and Blanche have taken refuge in a railroad saloon when Jenny is murdered. Throughout the course of the book Blanche tries to piece together the murder, convinced that her ex-lover is responsible.

Donoghue brings the boom town era of San Francisco to life in vibrant colour but it is her creation of Jenny and Blanche as characters that is the stand out in this book. Blanche and Jenny are both written in such a way that despite not finding either of them the most warm or likeable characters, I can sure as imagine them both as real people.

For me the first half of this book was a little bit stagnant, I read on enjoying the scenes and general commotion that Jenny (told in backstory) causes in Blanche's life but it wasn't until I was a good halfway through the book that I found the plot really started to draw me in and Blanche's fighting spirit gave me something to root for.

As Blanche beings to dig deeper into the past of her murdered friend she soon starts to discover the she never really knew her friend Jenny. Blanche is a resilient woman and a strong character to boot who holds her own throughout the novel. Donoghue's set out to recreate not only a captivating time in history but her own take on true-life murder will leave you feeling suprised and satisfied. I even think Blanche could do with another book on the next chapter of her life.

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