Trending
MOST READ
Lt. Governor Race: the \'Luchadora\' vs. the Tea Party radio host

Lt. Governor Race: the 'Luchadora' vs. the Tea Party radio host

News: A few Saturdays ago, I spent several hours hanging around a Texas Realtors Association conference in San Antonio, trying to catch state Sen. Dan Patrick... By Alexa Garcia-Ditta 9/17/2014
The Permanent Gangsta Status of Mobb Deep’s Prodigy

The Permanent Gangsta Status of Mobb Deep’s Prodigy

Music: Prodigy, better known to ’90s rap aficionados as the prodigious half of Queensbridge duo Mobb Deep, has made a successful career operating on... By James Courtney 9/17/2014
Best Lounge

Best Lounge

Best of SA 2013: 4/24/2013
Beaches Be Trippin\': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Beaches Be Trippin': Five Texas Coast Spots Worth the Drive

Arts & Culture: Let’s face it, most of us Lone Stars view the Texas coast as a poor man’s Waikiki. Hell, maybe just a poor man’s Panama Beach — only to be used... By Callie Enlow 7/10/2013
Everything but the Bowie in \'David Bowie Is\'

Everything but the Bowie in 'David Bowie Is'

Screens: People love David Bowie more than you are capable of loving your family. But that’s OK—people love Bowie to an extent that your family would quite frankly... By Jeremy Martin 9/17/2014
Calendar

Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.

Search hundreds of clubs in our database.

Follow us on Instagram @sacurrent

Print Email

Arts & Culture

‘Room’ Author Emma Donoghue Returns with Steamy Novel ‘Frog Music’

Photo: N/A, License: N/A


In 1870s San Francisco, in the midst of a debilitating smallpox epidemic and a rancid heat wave, a cross-dressing, frog-hunting, bicycling itinerant singer named Jenny Bonnet is murdered. In Emma Donoghue’s latest novel, Frog Music, Jenny’s new friend Blanche Beunon, a French burlesque dancer, works to find her killer and bring him to justice. Along the way, Blanche must both piece together what little she knows about her friend’s mysterious past and her own shattered present.  

Working from actual historic record, Donoghue, who previously hit it big with 2010’s international bestseller Room, masterfully fleshes out San Francisco’s demi-monde of French émigré performers and pimps. Blanche, a former acrobat, arrives in America with her lover and his best friend, a highly tense ménage. The men live off of Blanche’s earnings as a dancer and courtesan, using them for gambling and “investments.” (Luckily, she is smart enough to make a few investments of her own.) Jenny’s sudden appearance in their lives forces Blanche to question her choices, resulting in a dangerous upheaval and possibly costing Jenny her life.   

"Vintage Photos Inform Author Emma Donoghue’s Racy Murder Mystery Frog Music"

Donoghue’s pacing is exemplary, beginning with the murder itself and then moving from past to future and back again. What lurks in the shadows of Donoghue’s San Francisco is sometimes horrific, sometimes only eerie and occasionally even appealing. Although Blanche knows more than the reader does for much of the work, there are surprises for her as well. Blanche never becomes a caricature of the French coquette. She is smart, witty, vulnerable, practical and hopeful by turns, and the reader falls for her instantly.

Frog Music also makes a case for the return of blatant eroticism to mainstream literature. Blanche Buenon’s world is one of sex and prostitution, Jenny’s one of subverting her gender expectations, and both women have a charged sexuality that simmers like that summer heat wave under the surface of the novel. Donoghue handles graphic sexual scenes deftly, never compromising the frank and lustful point of view of her main character.

History lovers will enjoy the afterword of historic notes almost as much as the novel itself. Donoghue explains that despite the loss of much of San Francisco’s historic records in the Great Earthquake and Fire of 1906, she was able to research an astonishing amount of information about the characters (all of the principles were real contemporaries), activities, music and buildings the characters inhabit. Since Blanche is a performer (and Jenny an adroit mimic), Donoghue uses snatches of song throughout her writing. There is an extensive notes section on the songs as well, although I still personally find this technique distracting (it’s not as if we can hear the music). Otherwise, Frog Music is the perfect highbrow historical murder mystery summer read.

Frog Music

by Emma Donoghue
Little, Brown and Company | $27 | 416 pp

Recently in Arts & Culture
We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
comments powered by Disqus