Frog music A novel

Emma Donoghue, 1969-

Book - 2014

"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 firs...t. 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"--

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Subjects
Genres
Historical fiction
Published
New York : Little, Brown and Company 2014.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
405 pages ; 25 cm
ISBN
0316324671
9780316324687
031632468X
Main Author
Emma Donoghue, 1969- (-)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Donoghue flawlessly combines literary eloquence and vigorous plotting in her first full-fledged mystery, a work as original and multifaceted as its young murder victim. During the scorching summer of 1876, Jenny Bonnet, an enigmatic cross-dressing bicyclist who traps frogs for San Francisco's restaurants, meets her death in a railroad saloon on the city's outskirts. Exotic dancer Blanche Beunon, a French immigrant living in Chinatown, thinks she knows who shot her friend and why, but has no leverage to prove it and doesn't know if she herself was the intended target. A compulsive pleasure-seeker estranged from her "fancy man," Blanche searches desperately for her missing son while pursuing justice for Jenny, but finds her two goals sit in conflict. In language spiced with musical interludes and raunchy French slang, Donoghue brings to teeming life the nasty, naughty side of this ethnically diverse metropolis, with its brothels, gaming halls, smallpox-infested boardinghouses, and rampant child abuse. Most of her seedy, damaged characters really lived, and she not only posits a clever solution to a historical crime that was never adequately solved but also crafts around Blanche and Jenny an engrossing and suspenseful tale about moral growth, unlikely friendship, and breaking free from the past. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Clothes make the man, it's said, but don't tell that to Jenny Bonnet, the cross-dressing, frog-catching, gun-toting antiheroine of Donoghue's genre-defying new novel, set in late 1800s California. When the inimitable Jenny loses control of her high-wheel bicycle, riding smack into prostitute and exotic dancer Blanche Beunon, something extraordinary happens: Blanche discovers female friendship. Viewing her life through Jenny's lens, Blanche finds her fantasy world evaporating. Her lover Arthur Deneve, a gambler and a dandy, is nothing more than her pimp. And where, Blanche wonders, did he really take the little boy she gave birth to a year ago? Donoghue's evocative language invades the senses with the sights and smells of Chinatown, the frying food, boisterous saloons, even the sickrooms of victims of the smallpox epidemic. Readers won't quickly forget this rollicking, fast-paced novel, which is based on a true story and displays fine bits of humor with underlying themes of female autonomy and the right to own one's sexual identity. VERDICT A murder mystery, a feminist manifesto, and a human interest story, this will likely be compared to Donoghue's well-received Slammerkin, but it was her blockbuster, Room, soon to be a major motion picture, that made Donoghue a book group darling. Expect lots of requests. [See Prepub Alert, 10/4/13.]—Sally Bissell, Fort Myers, FL [Page 94]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Donoghue caught everyone's attention with Room, a visceral stunner that has sold more than 1.5 million copies and was a 2010 Man Booker Prize finalist. Her follow-up short story collection, Astray, demonstrated her uncanny ability to turn historical fact into affecting fiction. She'll doubtless do that again in this new novel, based on an unsolved murder in 1876 San Francisco. As the city is swept by smallpox and wrenching heat, Jenny Bonnet is shot to death through the window of a railroad saloon, and friend Blanche Beunon, a French burlesque dancer, meets the stuck-up wealthy, the desperately poor, and the determinedly bohemian as she searches of the killer. Not surprisingly, there's a 200,000-copy first printing and a ten-city tour. [Page 66]. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Donoghue's first literary crime novel is a departure from her bestselling Room, but it's just as dark and just as gripping as the latter. Based on the circumstances surrounding the grizzly real-life murder of Jenny Bonnet, a law-flouting, pants-wearing frog catcher who lived in San Francisco in the mid-1870s, this investigation into who pulled the trigger is told in episodic flashbacks from the point of view of Blanche Beunon. Blanche is a raunchy, self-absorbed burlesque dancer and French émigré who befriended the alluring Bonnet and was with her on the night she was killed. Also woven into the plot is Blanche's sordid relationship with Albert Deneve, an ex–tightrope walker, and his minion Ernest, who may have had a hand in the murder while swindling Blanche out of house, home, and one-year-old baby. Aside from the obvious whodunit factor, the book is filled with period song lyrics and other historic details, expertly researched and flushed out. The sweltering heat wave and smallpox epidemic that afflicted thousands in 1876, the Sinophobic takedown of Chinese businesses, and the proliferation of baby farms—glorified dumping grounds for unwanted babies—are all integrated into the story of Bonnet's tragic end. Donoghue's signature talent for setting tone and mood elevates the book from common cliffhanger to a true chef d'oeuvre. (Apr.) [Page ]. Copyright 2013 PWxyz LLC

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Burlesque dancer Blanche Beunon tries to discover who murdered her friend Jenny, who was shot through a window in a railroad saloon in 1876 San Francisco, amidst a record-breaking heatwave and smallpox epidemic.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

From the author of the worldwide bestseller Room: "Her greatest achievement yet...Emma Donoghue shows more than range with Frog Music -- she shows genius."- Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life. Summer of 1876: San Francisco 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 named 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.