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.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your My Library section along with the audio.
©2014 Emma Donoghue (P)2014 Hachette Audio
I'm a bibliophile since early childhood. Love speculative fiction, odd premises, mystery novels that teach about different places and times.
The premises and possibilities of this book are really good. It's an interesting time, some interesting characters and a good mystery. But the flash backs are completely confusing and really could have been handled better. Something as simple as a date over the chapter so you could get what was past and what was further on. I'm not sorry I read it, and it's a fascinating view of Old San Francisco. But very hard to follow.
Addicted to Audible!
I am a fan of both Ms. Donoghue and Ms. Hvam, so imagine my happiness when they collaborate to entertain me. This book was engaging and interesting. I did find it a bit confusing because the author kept going back and forth between time periods, but that seems to be a writing technique that is very popular now. The storyline, set in San Francisco in the late 19th century was fascinating and I learned a few things I had never heard about ie: baby farms and cross dressing as a crime. The characters were not particularly likeable, except for Jennie, but I did feel that the author delved into what made them the people they were. I enjoy historically based novels because in an entertaining way they bring up facts I wasnt aware of, that I can later research. Ms.Hvams narration was excellent as always, she is able to conjure up many different accents realistically and move between them flawlessly! Despite this not being a perfect novel, I think it's entertaining and worth your time and credit.
Audiobooks have literally changed my life. I now actually ENJOY doing mindless chores because they give me plenty of listening time!
I found out after finishing this book, as I listened to a short NPR interview with Emma Donoghue, that she'd based her latest story on a true crime that took place in California in 1876: "On the very outskirts of San Francisco, in a grimy bar, a lot of bullets came through a window and they killed one woman in the room, Jenny Bonnet, who was a professional frog catcher. And they left the other woman, Blanche Beunon, a burlesque dancer, unharmed", she told the interviewer. Basing herself on numerous court transcripts and newspaper articles, she found material which was too good to make up; the city was in the middle of a major heatwave and a devastating smallpox epidemic; the victim Jenny Bonnet was a professional frog-catcher who sold her goods to local restaurants and liked to wear men's clothes, which was a punishable offence in the city of San Francisco and landed her in jail numerous times. The other woman, Blanche Beunon was a French immigrant who made her living as a burlesque dancer and prostitute. These two women, along with the city of San Francisco itself, a ramshackle place quickly thrown together by "miners, restaurateurs and prostitutes" are Donoghue's main characters, from which she fleshed out her story, creating plausible lives for the two women and imagining how the two might have crossed paths and come to be in that room together on the fatal night.
The main character is Blanche, who at first is content with her life, making men drool and throw money at her feet with her naughty stage acts and 'michetons', the rich customers she charges healthy fees for sexual favours. But when Jenny Bonnet literally slams into her with her outlandish machine, in the form of a large front-wheel bicycle, and the two unconventional women start developing a friendship, questions raised by Jenny force Blanche to look at her life from a new perspective. Donoghue, while not condoning or condemning prositution, raises question about how it affects women's lives in the larger picture. In this case, Blanche has had a baby by her French boyfriend, who abhors the 'Bourgeois' but has no qualms comfortably living off her earnings, and who had arranged for the newborn to be farmed out to "Angel Makers", a form of childcare for desperate parents known as such because the children likely to die from neglect. Up until her encounter with Jenny, Blanche had conveniently put the whole matter out of her mind and never visited the place where her child was kept, imagining, as she was led to believe, that the child lived in the fresh air of a country farm, away from city pollution and dirt. But from the sudden shocking awareness of what Petit's living conditions have actually been for the first year of his life, a mother's love will force her to make difficult choices which will have repercussions on many lives.
I read Donoghue's Slammerkin many years ago, and must say I haven't had the courage to broach Room yet, but in this new novel, she returns in good form to one of my favourite genres and delivers a historical novel that crackles with life and realistic details and characters, and makes for a really great yarn from beginning to end, for what is a basically an unputdownable read.
I've listened to Khristine Hvam narrate other books before and while she is a good narrator, my beef with her is that she seems to have just one cookie-cutter foreign accent which I've heard her use for both Czech and French accents most unconvincingly. Of course, in my case, being a fluent French speaker, a bad French accent is bound to grate on the ears, and in this case, since the main protagonist is French, there is a lot of grating to be endured, but to Hvam's credit, the delivery was good enough for this to be a minor quibble and didn't take away from my overall enjoyment of this audiobook. Definitely recommended.
The Book Snob for Paris Life Magazine.
At first I was very drawn into this, then it became a chore. Am I alone? I don't buy the characters, or the mystery, and I didn't care about them in the end. That's fatal for me.
I looked forward to the end of the book, through most of this book. Only finishing because of my concern for the infant. The story held no interest to me.
Emma Donoghue chose to write about an actual unsolved murder mystery that took place in 1876 in San Francisco, using historic characters. The story centers around a French burlesque dancer struggling to stay alive after the murder of her unorthodox friend, Jenny Bonnet, a women locally well known for her crime of wearing pants. It's a dark world of prostitutes, baby farms, a factual small pox epidemic during an unrelenting heat wave. It sounds like a great story right? The author found an interesting topic but, she just did not deliver.
The characters are shallow, one dimensional and unconnected. They don't interacted or have conversations. They talk at one another - often in trite platitudes. The Jenny character sounds like a cartoon rootin'tootin' cowboy spitting one nonsensical adages after another and she's got a million of them. I was glad to see her demise...but, she kept coming back throughout the book. Blanche and her revolving maternal instinct. Hard to get around a woman who claims to have a deep bond then contemplates allowing her worst enemy to raise him in the next breath.
Here is why listen to this book on Audible made it even worse - 1)Half the characters have French accents. 2)The story switches between the beginning of these two woman's friendship - to the end of their relationship - to before their relationship - not in chapters or even paragraphs, but in sentences. I am thinking that the written text uses italics when the main character, Blanche refers back to the previous time from one sentence to another, then three sentences later is back to referring about events at the end of their relationship. That just does not show up when someone is reading to you. The listener is constantly listening for the tense of the verbiage or the action of the characters to try to determine where the story is. It's maddening. Khristine Hvam did all she could to translate this into an audible book - but, you can only do so much.
Blanche - she was the main characters but she was my favorite because she evolved and changed so much by the end of the story.
I love period novels and this one was one of the best. The author was very descriptive of the time period and the surroundings and characters without distracting from the story line too much. It was a definite "page turner". It was not too fast paced but enough to keep your attention. I would highly recommend this book and would love to listen to more books by Emma Donoghue. The naration was great too - she did not over use the accents or voices and did not distract from the story.
Mother of teenaged bear, Wife to chaos, Warrior
This was a good mystery with real character development. I found the author kept rehashing the same points over and over. What I liked about the book was its ability to rehash those same points with many different outcomes which kept the mystery going.
This tale of 1876 San Francisco crosscuts between the August initial meeting of a cross-dressing free spirit and a French prostitute and the September murder of the former and the latter's attempt to have justice done. There is much historical color, apparently well researched, including quite interesting revelations of the "baby-farming" business.
To the negative, the narrator murders the many songs of the period that she is called upon to sing; she could have learned the accurate tunes, mostly available elsewhere, or simply spoken them as she occasionally does. She does not do a bad job with the heavy French accents required for much of the dialog.
I loved Donoghue's Room but this actually left me numb. It dances between the present and past. The protagonist sort of wins at the end and that was upbeat…but thats it.
No. I don't think the story line was worthwhile enough.
Actually, the narration was better than the storyline.
It's probably up there in the 80th percentile of like ability. I've read some I liked more and a lot I've liked less.
Can't think of anything I can talk about without giving something away to future readers
I don't think so, she did a wonderful job with this one
Jenny Bonnet, because she was such a unique character
It is definitely worth it's cost 😃
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