Frog Music

Frog Music - Emma Donoghue In 1876 San Francisco was in the middle of a heat wave, it was illegal for women to wear trousers, questionable dance halls were tolerated, inconvenient babies were sent to “farms” to be cared for, frog legs were on every bar menu, smallpox raged and literally quite by accident, Blanche Beunon and Jenny Bonnet ended up the unlikeliest best friends. Blanche, the dance hall chanteuse/dancer and woman of loose morals is sharing a room at a Railway Station with her friend Jenny, the cross-dressing frog catcher when just as she bends over to untie a stubborn knot in her boot, a shot rings out and Jenny is dead. No one seems to care about Jenny’s murder except Blanche and she will stop at nothing, and risk everything, to make sure the murderer is brought to justice.

As Blanche searches for clues in the memories she has of their friendship she recalls what her life was like before she met Jenny and how her life changed after she met Jenny. Throughout most of this book I did not care for Blanche or Jenny as the heroines of this tale, but as Ms. Donoghue spun their stories I could understand how each landed in their circumstances and my opinion softened just a little bit. Blanche smoothed Jenny’s rough edges just a little bit and Jenny gave Blanche the backbone she thought she had but really didn’t.

I was fortunate enough to attend an author event where Ms. Donoghue explained how she happened across an online copy of a newspaper article telling of the real-life Jenny. Ms. Donoghue did her research and although she did find much historical data about the time and some about Jenny, there was not enough information for a biography, but Jenny stayed with her and 15 years later the result is “Frog Music”. Although the real murder of Jenny was never solved, Ms. Donoghue does give us believable closure for “her” Jenny Bonnet.