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frogReviewed by Karen Waskewich

I loved Emma Donoghue’s novel Room and was thrilled to receive an early copy of her newest book, which I felt was just as eye opening and gripping as her last. Once I started reading this book, I couldn’t get through it fast enough and each chapter left me wanting more.

Frog Music is an intense and raw portrait of what life was like in the mid-1870s San Francisco during a smallpox epidemic with brothels, bohemians and burlesque dancers. What I didn’t know until after I read the book and started researching more about the story was that Frog Music was based on the real life unsolved murder of Jeanne ‘Jenny’ Bonnet, a frog catcher who is known for her run-ins with the law and wearing of men’s clothing.

The book centers around two women; Jenny and Blanche Beunon, a former equestrienne turned burlesque dancer who emigrated from France and makes her money dancing and sleeping with men. Blanche loves sex and is proud to admit it – I will warn you now that there are some graphic and intense sex scenes. The story goes into the detail of how the two women met, became friends, and ultimately spent their last day together in San Miguel Station until Jenny is shot dead. The author jumps between time periods, pre and post murder which at times was a little confusing but still very interesting to read.

The author strips down the main character Blanche until you can feel her every emotion and thought including her feelings toward her lover Arthur, the father of her baby and an ex-circus star who spends his days roaming around the city with his side-kick Ernest. Throughout the entire book, I felt a mixture of sadness, annoyance, and frustration at Blanche then came to really side with her towards the end.

The characters in this novel especially Jenny and Blanche are ones you will never forget. Frog Music is a superbly written novel that will shock you from the first page until the last. I highly recommend picking up a copy of Frog Music; it’s very different from Room but just as addicting.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Karen is a fiancee to a wonderful man and a mom to a beautiful brindled boxer in Rockville, MD. When she’s not working as an IT consultant, she opens up a good book (or turns on her Kindle) or makes her way into the kitchen to cook for her family and friends. Find her at her blog or Twitter.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Little, Brown and Company. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.