Monday Mini ~ Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

MondayMini3Getting 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.

Frog Music by Emma DonoghueCover of Frog Music
Little, Brown & Company ~ April 1, 2014 ~ 416 pages
Hachette Audio ~ Khristine Hvam ~ 12 hrs 47 mins

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.


  • At 2014.06.09 07:52, bermudaonion (Kathy) said:

    I’ve been hearing mixed things about this book but audio does seem to be the way to go with it.

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    • At 2014.06.09 08:58, JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing said:

      I borrowed this book from the library, but couldn’t get into it… should have gone the audio route!

      • At 2014.06.09 15:53, Nicole said:

        I have heard that the audio is a bit more accessible than the print version, which is what I picked up. I will keep this in mind for an audio read later on in the summer. Thanks, Jennifer.

        • At 2014.07.08 06:50, Liliane Ruyters said:

          Do I dare say that I was not really captivated by Donoghue’s novel? I found main character Blanche rather silly and impulsive. It was not until the very end that I started to find her convincing. I did not get that she would totally change her life because of a single remark. At the end I realised that Blanche was all about impulsiveness and determination to cling to her choices. She fell head over heels in love with her circus artist / lover / pimp, she fell for new best friend Jenny the moment she met her and when she finally had the sense to remove her baby from the home where he was taken care of, she instantaneously became a mother. Nevertheless I wonder whether Donoghue was not trying too much: combining a murder mystery with the psychology of relationships (between friends, mother and child and lovers), life changing choices to be made and San Francisco during an outbreak of the pocks and a heatwave. Blanche started discovering herself through Jenny, it would have been nice if this process has been worked out more intricately. In this case less could have been more or Donoghue should have written a real Victorian novel: twice as long with enough pages to elaborate on her characters and their colourful surroundings. I was left with the feeling that Frog Music was half done.

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