Monday, 23 January 2017

FROG MUSIC - by Emma Donoghue

Frog Music - Emma Donoghue
Year Published: 2014 by HarperCollins.
Genre: Historical fiction / mystery
Pages: 403.
Source: Library.
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.

Donoghue's writing is flawless. More than that, it's exquisite. She creates atmosphere so effortlessly that it sweeps you into the world and it becomes a part of you; you're there, you're watching, and it's frightening. So brilliant that it's scary and overwhelming and absorbing.

Frog Music was another masterpiece. The characterisation was absolutely excellent - the characters' personalities came through loud and clear and three dimensional - and the writing flowed perfectly. The story/mystery was tight and clever and so intelligently executed, but what I loved most about this book - and I said the same for Donoghue's The Sealed Letter -  was the revelation of the facts regarding the murder and the characters' backstorys (that gradually led to the murder being solved and understood.)

I could go on forever about how much I loved that - it was so brilliantly on point, so subtle, so careful, and so, so natural. Light gradually moved over the characters, forcing up their pasts, giving reasons for their behaviour in the present, and drawing to the surface the painful and horrific subtext that had unwittingly been under my nose the whole time.  It was poignant and it was excellent.  

I must mention the atmosphere again. In Frog Music, it unfortunately wasn't as rich as it could have been (considering the era Donoghue chose)  but it was still chilling and tragic. The sexism of the time was horrendous - but brilliantly portrayed -  and I hated to see how Blanche and Jenny were treated in what was then a "man's world". The abuse Blanche suffered was disgusting, and it was gut-wrenching to see how women were often left with no other option but prostitution. 

I have to mention something else:
Frog Music was very sexual. Very sexual. There were graphic depictions of intimate, physical sexual relations - literally all of the time in the form of abuse - and I often skim-read those sections. They were not pleasant or edifying.  

Another "con" of the book:  
As brilliant as Donoghue's writing was, this wasn't a nice story. It was very well written, but it was sad, painful, and frequently disheartening. None of the characters were likable, and the story was horrible.    

Frog Music was brilliantly written in every sense of the word, but the actual story was tragic and painful - despite a very satisfying ending - and the scenes of sexual content were never edifying or loving.   


  1. Oh I remember you loved another book by the same author! The sealed letter right? Abusive sexual stuff isn't something I'm comfortable with reading..I skim off too.. And I also can't deal with books whose genre seems to be 'tragedy' ..I'm scared of such books actually! Brilliant review Amy :)

    1. Yes that's right!! Good memory ;)
      Yeah agreed, it's definitely not okay. Shame, I totally understand that :) Yeah they scare me too but sometimes I just feel like being scared! Lol, weird I know.
      Thank you Uma!

  2. OH GOD!!! This book sounds so amazing to read but the abuse and torture has put me off it! ><
    This actually sounds like a classic, is it? I do love historical fiction though! Fab review! :)

    *er sorry about the deleted comment, I erm actually had loads of errors and unfortunately my fingers whilst typing got ahead of my brain so yeah!, runs away*

    1. IT WAS AMAZING!! But yeah, the abuse was horrendous :(
      It isn't really a classic, but YAY! I'm so glad you love historical fiction! Aww thank you!

      Haha totally fine :)

    2. Your welcome!
      Oh dear, I am not so keen on that! >.<

      Thank you! LOL :)

  3. I read another book by this author. I think she writes sad stories. The book I read wasn't a nice story, either. The writing was amazing and flawless, but I couldn't decide if I liked the book or not. I still can't! Ha ha

    1. What book was it? And yes, she definitely does. Ah no, sorry :(
      Haha I feel you! It's such a hard thing when the writing's great but the story isn't; it's so hard to decide what to rate it, it's like "do I give it a low rating because I hated the story, or a high rating cos I loved the writing?!"

  4. It's so disappointing when you love an author and his/her writing style, but the story s/he chooses to tell isn't for you. I've encountered a lot of books that are too graphic with horrible things, or that are just too depressing to breeze through. While I think books should be written to inform and help us confront those, sometimes, that's just not what we need at that moment. Loved your review! Thanks for sharing!

    Alyssa @ Purple People Readers

    1. Oh absolutely :( And urgh, I'm sorry about that. It is so disappointing when that happens.
      Yes I totally agree, good point :)
      Aww thanks!! Sure!
      Hope you have a lovely week, Alyssa :)

  5. 1876! I love historical fiction, and the 1800s is a favorite century of mine. I admit though, I have not read many stories set in 1800s San Francisco. Initially when I saw your note about the book being very sexual, I was like YAY! But then I read the rest of the paragraph and nope. Any sexy times that border abuse is an automatic no for me. :/

    Great review, Amy!

    Alyssa @ The Eater of Books!

    1. Yay that's great!! I'm not a big fan myself, but that's me ;)
      Although......San Francisco 1876 does have a tantalizing feel to it!
      Yeah, the abuse wasn't great at all. Brilliant writing, but so sad and hopeless.

      Thanks Alyssa!

  6. I have heard a lot of good things about Emma's books, but have yet to read any of them myself. I was curious about this title, because it sounded so unique to me. But this one sounds like it is quite a good read, and very well written. Gonna have to check it out ;)

    1. Ah you should read her books, they're so good. She's a brilliant writer.
      It definitely is that :) I hope you get to read it sometime soon!


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