Frog Music

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Frog Music

by Emma Donoghue

HarperCollins Publishers Ltd | March 17, 2014 | Hardcover

Frog Music is rated 3.4286 out of 5 by 7.

From the #1 international bestselling author of Room

It is 1876, and San Francisco, the freewheeling "Paris of the West," is in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heat wave 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, Blanche 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 boom town like no other. Like much of Donoghue''s acclaimed fiction, this larger-than-life story is based on real people and documents. Her prodigious gift for lighting up forgotten corners of history is on full display once again in this unforgettable novel.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 416 pages, 9.3 × 6.38 × 1.5 in

Published: March 17, 2014

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1443429112

ISBN - 13: 9781443429115

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from Meh. Frog Music was 'okay'. I read Emma Donoghue's Slammerkin a while back and loved it; I thought Frog Music might be along the same lines and gave it a try. The writing is good, I suppose, but at some point I realized I was more than half way through the book and it still had yet to actually grip me, pull me into its storyline and characters. I found putting it down to be easy and coming back to it a chore. The characters are unlikeable and only a few more than one dimension. As well, the central issue/mystery of the story just... well... fell flat. It wasn't nearly as vivid as Slammerkin, to me, in either plot or description. It's hard to compare one to the other, and yet coming from the same author I was definitely let down by Frog Music. I found I was wanting to finish the book for just that reason--to finish it and move on to something else, which is unfortunate. It wraps up nicely and the mystery is solved but with such a lack-lustre climax, I felt as if the author herself was just not really into it by that point, either. I would recommend trying something else by this author before Frog Music. She has a wonderful talent, but it doesn't seem to sparkle as much with this one.
Date published: 2014-11-06
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Frog Music I really enjoyed reading this book even though I didn't really like the characters. Blanche came across as selfish and so did a lot of the other characters. Blanche does somewhat redeem herself which is why I gave the book 4 stars. The writing is superb and once I read that this novel was based on true facts, my admiration for the author was increased. The research she must have done is amazing. This book has a little bit of everything: murder, mystery, sex, motherhood. The setting of the story is really great, late 19th century San Francisco, quite interesting. All in all, a great read.
Date published: 2014-06-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Who Killed Jenny Bonnet? It is the end of summer 1876, and San Francisco has been struck by a heat wave and a smallpox epidemic. Jenny Bonnet, a frog-hunting woman dressed in men’s clothes, is riding her bicycle when she collides with Blanche Beunon, a burlesque dancer and prostitute. This is the start of an unexpected friendship that will end a month later when Jenny is shot dead in a saloon at San Miguel Station. Blanche is convinced that the bullets were meant for her, and she tries to piece together the events of the previous weeks in order to make sense of this horrific murder. At the same time, she is desperate to find her one-year-old son who was kidnapped by Blanche’s ex-boyfriend/pimp, Arthur, and his friend, Ernest. On 28 April 2014, Emma Donoghue was in Ottawa to promote her book, Frog Music. She explained that, 15 years ago, she discovered by chance an article about the real-life Jenny, and she thought that it would make a great novel. In order for the book to be really close to the facts, the author did a lot of research, mainly online: she pored through ship immigrant lists, genealogy websites and newspaper databases. She also read memoirs and travel guides of the time, and looked at photographs from the end of the nineteenth century. However, Emma Donoghue decided on writing a fiction rather than a non-fiction because there were not enough facts to make a biography. That being said, almost all the characters in the book come from historical records. Another important component of the book is music. The author wanted to show the culture of the time using folk songs that were popular in the 1870s. In fact, at the end of Frog Music, there is a historical background for each of the songs used in the book, and it shows that the lyrics evolved through time. In the end, the author was surprised by how the music took over the novel: there are almost 30 different songs in the book. I thought this real-life murder case was interesting, and I particularly enjoyed the historical elements of the story. The baby farms horrified me, and I couldn’t imagine leaving my child in one of those places while I was working! However, there were repetitions in the story, and the narrative was slow at times. In addition, Blanche was not a very likable character, unlike Jenny who I found fascinating: she was ahead of her time and carefree, and would have deserved to be the main character in Frog Music. In fact, I would have loved to know more about her background, particularly her childhood. The ending was satisfying though: Emma Donoghue offers a culprit even though the real-life murder case was never really solved. Please go to my blog, Cecile Sune - Bookobsessed, if you would like to read more reviews or discover fun facts about books and authors.
Date published: 2014-05-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Agitating Read While I loved Donoghue's powerful 'Slammerkin' - well-researched, soulful and moving, I have found Frog Music to be an agitating read, perhaps because of the 'then and now' chapters, perhaps because dense description jarrs against light character development. The thought occured to me that famous writers sometimes take out-of-the-box writing risks that work, but after 50 plus pages, I have turned to another riveting read of the same time period and also in the U.S.: Valerie Boyd's 'Wrapped In Rainbows', a biography of Zora Neale Hurston. Eleanor Cowan, author of: A History of a Pedophile's Wife: Memoir of a Canadian Teacher and Writer
Date published: 2014-05-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved it I studiously avoided reading any reviews or mentions of Emma Donoghue's latest release, beyond the publisher's synopsis. I knew Frog Music would be brilliant and I wanted to discover and savour the book with no spoilers. I spent every spare minute for two days devouring Frog Music. And, just as I knew I would - I loved it. Donoghue returns to the past in Frog Music, taking us back to San Francisco in the sweltering summer of 1876. A summer that also sees a smallpox epidemic hit the city. French born Blanche makes her living as a burlesque dancer, supporting herself, her lover and most often her lover's companion as well. And if she sometimes does more than dance? Well...."She never exactly intended to be a soiled dove (that curious euphemism), but neither can she remember putting up any real objection. She stepped into the life like a swimmer entering a lake, a few inches at a time." Blanche seems to be happy with her life, until the day she literally runs into Jenny Bonnet and discovers that "this is the friend Blanche has been waiting a quarter of a century for without even knowing it". Neither knows that this chance meeting will end in Jenny's death. (No spoilers faithful readers - this happens in the first few pages of the book) Blanche is determined to find out who killed Jenny, even as her own life spirals out of control. That's the bare bones premise of Frog Music, but there is so much more to the book. Donoghue deftly explores sexuality, love, parenthood, friendship, feminism, abuse and more in a richly detailed setting. And it's a good whodunit as well. Blanche is a complicated character. She seems oblivious to how she is being used, yet has occasional flashes of clarity. My thoughts on her changed as the book progressed. At first, I didn't engage with her and viewed her quite dispassionately. But as I read further, I was quite sad at her self-deception, then sorry for her as more of her life was revealed, disappointed with some of her choices, then happy as she began to take charge of her own life and by the end was mentally urging her forward, hoping for the ending I wanted. It is much easier to define how I felt about Jenny. I loved her - her joie de vivre, her happiness, her curiosity, her engagement with those around her and the world. The supporting characters also elicited strong reactions from this reader - particularly Blanche's lover Arthur - whom I despised. Donoghue slowly plays out the story of Blanche and Jenny in now and then chapters, with a little more revealed each time, sometimes in a single phrase or sentence, connecting the events of those six weeks. Donoghue's descriptions of time and place had me vividly imaging myself in the heat, the dirt, the dust, the clamour, the colours, the grit and the fear that was 1876 San Francisco. I had to really stop myself from flipping ahead to see the final pages. I desperately wanted to know who the killer was and where Blanche would end up. I have to say, the murderer was not who I thought it might be. Donoghue plants many red herrings along the way. The title is clever as 'frogs' and music figure many ways into the novel. Donoghue has compiled a collection of the songs quoted in the book. There are smatterings of French phrases and words throughout Frog Music as well - a glossary is also included. But what is most fascinating is that Frog Music is based on fact. The time, the players and the events are all real. Jenny Bonnet was murdered - but the case was never solved. "Then, again, the explanation Frog Music offers of this still unsolved murder is only an educated hunch, which is to say, a fiction." I enjoy everything that Emma Donoghue writes, but I have to say my favourites are her historical books - a story taken from a bit of history and woven into a tale of what was and what might have been. Definitely recommended.
Date published: 2014-04-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Complicated! I've been looking forward to reading this book, ever since I read its description a couple of months ago.  I couldn't put it down, but it didn't entirely live up to my expectations.  The setting was splendidly sordid, and the relationships were definitely complicated, but some parts of the plot simply didn't mesh in a way that satisfied me.  Some of the descriptive details about peoples' everyday lives and jobs have been handled better in other novels I've read.  I do like the way Emma Donoghue based her characters and events on known facts and historical records, and some parts were very witty! I wish I could have given a 5-star rating.
Date published: 2014-03-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A lyrical tale When Emma Donoghue wrote a book about Jack, a five-year-old who lives in a single room with his Ma and has never been outside, readers marveled at this brilliant story – soon to become a motion picture. Room, the international bestseller, sold over a million copies, and won a ton of awards including the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction for the best Canadian novel. It was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the New York Times names it one of their six best fiction titles of 2010. Now, Emma Donoghue returns with Frog Music, a story set in 1876 San Francisco, amid a stifling heat wave and smallpox epidemic that have engulfed the city. With this daringly different story from her original novel, Emma Donoghue will definitely not be typecast into a particular genre. If you watch the book trailer, you get the impression that it is a story about solving a murder; but as I read the book, I felt that the murder is only a small fraction of the entire book. To me, it’s more a story about friendships and love and secret lives and song and dance. Blanche Beunon is a French burlesque dancer, who seems to lead a somewhat comfortable life, with a bohemian lover and a career that ensures her a certain joie de vivre.  Then she meets Jenny Bonnet, and almost overnight her circumstances change. Jenny the frog-hunter is indeed a charmer, and is almost as slippery as the frogs she hunts. As Blanche starts hanging around with Jenny, she begins to struggle with her own choices in life – including a baby she’s “sent away” to a caregiver. The book is full of lyrical references; the characters break away into song, as easily as they do in a musical. Sometimes it’s cute, other times it feels a bit overdone. Despite their different personalities, the friendship that develops between the Blanche (the burlesque dancer) and Jenny (a vagabond who dresses like a guy and has constantly been thrown in jail for it), is welcoming. Emma Donoghue never completely fills in all the gaps for us in terms of Jenny’s background. Just as she is a mystery coming in, she remains a bit of an enigma as we complete the book. Also, the complete relationship between the two is never really explained. The song and dance, and slow moving plotlines, made Frog Music a bit of a challenging read for me personally. But, perhaps it is not suited to my particular reading enjoyments. Others may find that Emma Donoghue’s lyrical tale of love and bloodshed among lowlifes captures the pulse of a boomtown with a thrilling cinematic style crime adventure.  @ShilpaRaikar
Date published: 2014-03-26

– More About This Product –

Frog Music

by Emma Donoghue

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 416 pages, 9.3 × 6.38 × 1.5 in

Published: March 17, 2014

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 1443429112

ISBN - 13: 9781443429115

From the Publisher

From the #1 international bestselling author of Room

It is 1876, and San Francisco, the freewheeling "Paris of the West," is in the fierce grip of a record-breaking heat wave 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, Blanche 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 boom town like no other. Like much of Donoghue''s acclaimed fiction, this larger-than-life story is based on real people and documents. Her prodigious gift for lighting up forgotten corners of history is on full display once again in this unforgettable novel.

About the Author

Emma Donoghue was born on October 24, 1969 in Dublin, Ireland. She received her BA degree from the University College Dublin and PhD in English from University of Cambridge. Her first novel was Stir Fry and it was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in 1994. Her next novel was Hood which won the 1997 American Library Association's Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Book Award for Literature. Her novel Slammerkin was a finalist in the 2001 Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for Fiction. The Sealed Letter, published in 2008, was her latest work of historical fiction. It is based on the Codrington Affair - which was a divorce case that captivated Britain in 1864. This work was the joint winner of the 2009 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction. She continued writing several award winning novels including the Room which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize and on September 7, 2010 it made the short list.
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