Getting back into the swing of things each week is hard. So is finding the quiet time to write a review over the weekend. In order to ease out of the weekend, I’ve decided to begin my blogging week with a mini review.
Last year I listened to Emma Donoghue’s Astray because it got such glowing recommendations, especially from Jen at Devourer of Books. It’s a collection of short stories Donoghue wrote based upon snippets of historical news articles and other sources. I loved every minute of it and was thrilled to see it win an Audie award in 2013. When I discovered that she based this work on an unsolved murder in 1876’s San Francisco, I was completely sold.
My online reading group, The Hashtags, selected Frog Music as the April selection. I really looked forward to it, so as April rolled around I attempted to read it in print. It’s a quirk of mine that I get frustrated when there is a good deal of non-English text in books. It matters to no one and not at all really, but I like to read the words properly in my head. I can’t do that if I don’t speak the language. Given the amount of French Frog Music containe, I had difficulty getting into the book. Then I heard that Khristine Hvam narrated the audiobook and I decided to hold off until I got a copy of the audiobook. I made the right decision. I’m not sure I would have finished the book in print.
Khristine Hvam worked magic on Frog Music. From her French, to her singing, to her voices, she kept me listening and interested throughout the novel. I am very thankful that Jenny Bonnet, the standout character in this novel, was killed in the first chapter because I believe it would have broken my heart had this story been told in chronological order. Knowing her eventual outcome before getting to know her allowed me to protect myself. We hear Jenny’s story through Blanche Beuno, a French burlesque dancer who owns her own apartment building in San Francisco and supports the man who is supposed to love her through her dancing and the extra activities that typically followed. Blanche needed Jenny in ways that Jenny never needed another soul. Every woman needs a friend like Jenny, one who will make us look at our lives in ways we’ve otherwise rationalized ourselves out of seeing. While I may have otherwise been inclined to kick Blanche to the curb myself, Hvam’s narration of that character and her relationship with Jenny hinted at the elements of Blanche’s character that must have attracted Jenny to her side in the first place.
If you’re planning on reading Frog Music, I highly recommend picking up the audiobook. It turned a potentially meh story into an experience that will keep you listening.