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Book Review: Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

This brilliant novel is inspired by a real life murder case in the 1870s in San Francisco. Emma Donoghue has clearly done her research, but she has also crafted an impeccable novel of intrigue and murder that brings to life this part of San Francisco’s rich history – a time of show girls and prostitution, a small pox epidemic and riots and unease. This is an extremely elegant novel that is erotic, witty and compelling. I was mesmerised from the opening scene to the last page.

The story centres on erotic dancer Blanche, who lives a decidedly bohemian lifestyle with her man, Arthur, and his best friend Ernest. Life is a decadent round of dancing, looking after her ‘clients’, and spending time with Arthur, who always has Ernest in tow. Blanche claims to be happy with her lifestyle, but when she is knocked over by a Jenny, a loud pant-wearing American woman with a stolen bicycle, her life will never be the same. Instead of being angry with this woman, Blanche finds herself inviting Jenny back to her apartment. There Jenny asks about a photograph she sees – of Blanche’s young son who she thinks is being looked after on a farm.

A month later, Jenny has been murdered, and her son has suddenly become the focus of Blanche’s life.This historical novel has it all – rich period detail, original and believable characters and a plot that will have you turning the pages frantically. It’s completely different from the author’s international sensation, Room, but every bit as good in an utterly different way. Definitely to be recommended.

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