Frog Music by Emma Donoghue
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley, after I'd read a couple of mixed reviews. I was hoping for another Slammerkin which I adored and in that I was a bit disappointed. I found the robust heroine od Slammerkin larger than life, engaging and likeable whereas in this one I found the lead characters very pale and flimsy. I wonder if this is because they were in fact. real life characters whom the author was trying to imagine herself in to rather than giving birth to them completely from her own imagination?
The storyline sounds fantastic and no wonder it captured her imagination, it has all the elements of another Fingersmith or even The Crimson Petal and the White Crimson Petal, historical setting, girls of doubtable morals engaged in disreputable occupations, the seediness of drinking dens and bawdy houses, music halls and Burlesque, the unique and strange girl/boy who catches frogs for a living and swans around San Francisco, half sober, riding a penny farthing cycle! Smallpox is rife and The heroine Blanche lives with her Maque (lover/pimp) and his close friend and has sent her baby son to a "farm" to be cared for when she meets Jenny the frog catcher she has no idea her life is about to change radically.
We are introduced to the murder right at the beginning so there are no surprises there, the book jumps back and forth to before and after this event as Blanche fights to get her son back and uncover the murderer.
I found the story very slow to get into and the characters hard to warm to but it really got going about 2/3 of the way in and I was glad I'd persevered as it eventually, suddenly changed pace and became everything I'd hoped it would be all along. The revelations along the way go a long way to explaining much about why and how things happened, but I still found Blanches unlikely naivety and motives difficult to grasp.
One for people who like their historical fiction based firmly around facts, with great atmosphere and sense of place.