This month's Collaboreads criteria was to read a book set in summertime. I immediately thought of a few newer release options I have seen around the bookshop lately, like Summer Secrets, but instead I decided to go wander into the fiction shelves until I found something a little different. I'm a total sucker for historical fiction, so when I saw Frog Music by Emma Donoghue took place in summer of 1876, I was intrigued. When I saw it took place in San Francisco, I was done... I knew this was my book!
Let me just tell you my favorite part of the book up front: it was all based on real people and events! The book tells the story of the murder of eccentric frog-catcher Jenny Bonnet, through the eyes of her friend Blanche Beunon, a French immigrant who found success in the city as an exotic dancer. It takes place during a heat wave in San Francisco in summer of 1876, which is on record, as is the small pox outbreak that occurred that summer. Knowing this story was based on factual information, I was incredibly enthralled by every detail. When I finished the book I was pulled into an internet rabbit hole reading old newspapers from scanned archives, including Jenny Bonnet's obituary (spoiler alert - don't read the obit if you plan to read the book)!
I did not relate much to either female in the book, and I was even a little frustrated by the characters and their (in my opinion) poor choices. Regardless, I enjoyed how the plot shifted back and forth between the time period just before the murder, and just after... you are fed little bits of information as you follow along with Blanche while she tries to get justice for her friend without putting herself in danger.
Probably anything by Sarah Waters... but this book definitely reminded me of Fingersmith with its richly detailed historic setting and the strong bond and attraction between the two female characters.
I had actually seen a different cover for this book previously, and was oddly surprised at how different this book cover was from the original when I found it. Since then, I have found two other cover versions online here. They are all so incredibly different, and none in my opinion very accurately capture the essence of the book.
I would give this book 4 out of 5 stars. It was not one of my most favorite books ever, but it was a very good read. I was especially pleased with the experience afterward, digging through the information on the internet. The author even made a playlist of the songs she references in the novel to get you in the mood!