Frog Music-Emma Donoghue

‘She finds it oddly consoling to think of Jenny always in motion, spinning along on her high-wheeler or striding up a hill or crouching over a pond, all her energies focused on the hunt.’

I’ve enjoyed Emma Donoghue’s previous novels ‘Room’ & ‘The Sealed Letter’. ‘Frog Music was a present from Mr. WB, which I got around to reading a year later, as seems to be my wont.

Similar to ‘The Sealed Letter’, it’s based on a true story, this time swapping London for San Francisco in 1876. The story centres on the friendship between Blanche, an immigrant exotic dancer, and the native unconventional Jenny- a friendship that arises following a chance collision with Jenny’s bicycle.

Emma Donoghue does a good job rendering the seediness of San Francisco’s back alleys and marshes- you can almost smell the fug rising from the page.

I don’t know that I particularly liked Blanche or her manner of living (I think the ‘frilly’ covered edition is a more accurate picture of Blanche than my own more sombre cover!), but I was drawn into her world nevertheless, despite its somewhat unsavoury cast of supporting characters. The alternation between present day and flashbacks keep you guessing about the seminal event of the book-why and how it came about.

For me, what was even more intriguing, were the end notes, describing the true story which served as the novel’s inspiration, and the pleasant surprise of historical notes on the featured songs.

Emma O’Donoghue has written about several strong female characters, so I’ll be interested to see what (and who) she comes up with next.


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