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Ehh - hate to say, but I just didn't like it...
on April 1, 2014
I loved Emma Donoghue's previous best seller, Room. So when I first heard about Frog Music, I was so excited to read it. Unfortunately, I was completely disappointed.
Frog Music, which is set in 1870s San Francisco in the midst of an incredibly warm summer and a smallpox epidemic, takes up the story of a real historical figures. Jenny Bonnet, a fast-talking, pants-wearing frog hunter befriends Blanche Beunon, a French burlesque dancer and prostitute. One night, Beunon flees her Arthur, her pimp and boyfriend. Blanche follows Jenny outside of the city to plot her next move. Trouble is close behind, though, and through the window one night, Jenny is shot and killed. The story follows Blanche's quest to discover her friend's murderer.
I was taken quickly with the historical aspects (having just finished and loved Kate Manning’s My Notorious Life) and cursory descriptions of the book as a whole. I do have a better picture of 1876 San Francisco - the ravaging impact of smallpox, the racial tension with Chinese immigrants, and the Gold Rush sentimentality.
However, despite all of my excitement, even as I first sat down to read, I was unable to really get into the story. Part of the issue was, I didn't really like any of the characters. Also, the book started to get explicit. Blanche is a woman who loves sex and has quite a few rough encounters that are fairly hard-core.
I have trouble with plots in which very few characters are good or appealing (Breaking Bad, for instance, yes, I know, it's blasphemy to dislike that show, but I do). In part because Blanche is so inherently flawed and selfish, and given that the novel was rife with explicit sex scenes, my distaste started to add up early and quickly. Additionally, the plot kept moving back and forth in time, over the few weeks preceding and following the murder, which I found a bit frustrating and confusing. The book had extremely long chapters, only 8 in about 400 pages, which I generally dislike as well. Finally, the pace of the plot was fine, but the story itself just wasn't all that engaging.
All and all, I just didn't like it. The book took me about 2 weeks to read, mostly because I just didn't really care what happened next. So, my recommendation? Skip it.