I do not think that there can ever be enough books about anything and I say that knowing that some of them are going to be about Pilates.The more knowledge the better seems like a solid rule of thumb, even though I have watched enough science fiction films to accept that humanity’s unchecked pursuit of learning will end with robots taking over the world.-Sarah Vowell

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

When I read a review of this book I must have overlooked the part about it being based on actual events, because it wasn't until I got to the very end of the book and Donoghue tells what happens to each person that it hits me that these people actually existed. As Mark Twain so famously said: Truth is stranger than fiction. In this fictionalized account of a bizarre murder, which she offers up her own possible solution to, Donoghue really shines.

Set in 1876 San Francisco in the area of Chinatown, during a massive heatwave and smallpox epidemic, the famous French "soiled dove" dancer, Blanche Bleuon leaves the dance hall one night and is run down by Jenny Bonnet on her large bicycle.  Jenny wears men's clothes (which earns her some nights in jails and fines to pay) and earns money as a frog gigger selling her wares to the restaurants. The two unlikely women become friends. Jenny, though, in her own way, let's Blanche see that her life isn't what it seems. Blanche came to America from France with her lover Arthur and their friend Ernest. They had all been in a successful circus back there, but had decided to try the new world, as the bodies of the older men could not continue to for much longer as aerialists. With her money, Blanche buys an apartment building that the three of them share a room in. While Blanche and Arthur have practiced safe sex, over the nine years they have been together Blanche did get pregnant once (and kept right on working, and it ain't at dancing) to a little boy, P'tit. Arthur and her boss convinced her to send him out to the country for his health and she has visits with him occasionally while she still works, supporting Arthur and Ernest and their gambling. Now, Blanche is wondering about her son and questioning other things.

This book goes back and forth in time between what happens several miles down the road from San Fransisco, when one morning as Blanche bends over, a hail of bullets just misses her and kills Jenny in this upstairs room of a farmhouse and how the two of them got there in the first place. The relationship between the two is very complex, and yes, it becomes sexual. This book explores so many things, such as homosexuality, race, prostitution, and life as it could be back then. This book is a real page turner and an eye-opener. Also, it includes bits of old American and French songs and lots of French swear words and phrases (which are included in the glossary in the back).  I cannot recommend this book enough.

Link to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Frog-Music-Emma-Donoghue/dp/0316324671?ie=UTF8&keywords=frog%20music&qid=1463065701&ref_=sr_1_1&s=books&sr=1-1

Actual Pictures of the people: http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/inspiration-information-frog-music

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