"How dare Jenny have posed as a great eccentric, a dazzling original, the exception to all the rules of womanhood?"
I had the great fortune of being front row for Emma Donoghue’s closing address to the Sydney Writer’s Festival and had eagerly devoured her latest novel, Frog Music, in Anticipation. What an engaging speaker and what a compelling read! I can't believe I forgot to bring my copy - no signing for me - boo!
Closing the cover, upon completing my reading, I mused on the subject matter of her books and the notion that if I’d really known up front what they were about, I’d probably be dissuaded from picking them up in the first place, thereby missing out on some amazing novels (I refer to the two novels I‘ve read, this new one and the oftentimes shocking, albeit in a well-crafted way- Room). Emma’s speech was enlightening, for it covered that exact topic and particularly the importance of taking a reader on a journey they might not feel the need to embark on.
Back to the novel, which features a saucy French burlesque dancer/ lady of the night, Blanche Beunon, whose life will be altered by her introduction to a pants wearing, frog catching, bicycle riding, enigmatic, yet free spirit, called Jenny Bonnet. Her friendship and the hitherto unprecedented pull of maternal affection that Blanche feels for baby, P'tit, pave the foundations for the action of the novel and an entertaining murder mystery. I feel loathe to give too much away, I’d rather you just read the book and then we could have a nice chat about it.
Perhaps one of the more intriguing aspects of it is the pull that various influences have on our lives, sometimes in a destructive way. The reunion with her baby, shifts her drive from whore to mother, and yet muddies the waters as Blanche tries to make these two sides of herself meet in some kind of manageable way.
The book has some historical basis, which the author has kindly provided on her website, however I wholeheartedly agree with her recommendation to leave the facts until after you’ve finished the book. http://www.emmadonoghue.com/images/pdf/the-san-miguel-mystery-the-documents.pdf
Lust, frogs, murder, smallpox, San Francisco 1876 – if that doesn’t whet your appetite, give it a try, I’m sure you will be drawn in.
5 out of 5 frogs sing its not that easy being green.