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.
San Francisco is experiencing a suffocating heatwave in autumn of 1876 as a colorful character, also a prostitute, attempts to locate a killer and her abducted child.
Donoghue excelled in noting the historical features of San Francisco 1876. She described the racial tension with Chinese immigrants, devastating smallpox outbreak, unbearable record heatwave and touched upon the Gold Rush. Her impeccable eye for detailed captivates the reader allowing for immersion in both the time period along with the bustle and gritty feel of San Francisco.
Admittedly as much as I was taken in by the historical aspects I had a difficult time plodding through the story. I never felt a draw to the characters, in fact I disliked all of them. The narrative also contained explicit sex scenes, initially catching me off guard. Blanche is a prostitute and makes no bones regarding her love of sex. A few of the scenes depicted were a little rough demonstrating Blanche held few boundaries.
Not feeling any fondness for the characters really proves difficult in enjoying the story. Blanche was self-centered, unbelievably selfish, factor in the crude sex scenes, my enjoyment was diminishing with every turn of the page. My only enjoyment was the vivid environment described and historical references cited. The story failed to excitement me and hold my undivided attention.
Feeling lukewarm on this book but I did enjoy the stellar historical and detailed writing Donoghue provided. I’m sure others will enjoy Frog Music in its entirety.