Book Report: Frog Music

Frog MusicWhat’s The Buzz?:Emma Donoghue was an Irish-Canadian career author, writing well-regarded novels that were award finalists. Her life and her writing career exploded however, with the publication of 2010’s Room, a bestselling smash hit that shocked and impressed people in equal waves for its depiction of a woman that was kidnapped and locked away in captivity by her rapist and tormentor, but through the eyes of the five-year-old son she had with the man holding her captive. After the book’s runaway success, people have been waiting on tenterhooks to see what Donoghue does next. The answer then, is Frog Music.

What’s The Plot?:A shotgun blast at night. A pants-wearing, frog-catching woman. A stolen baby that was previously abandoned. A trio of Parisian circus performers caught in a potentially deadly entanglement. A sweltering summer and an outbreak of smallpox. These are the elements that make up Donoghue’s 1876, San Francisco-set novel Frog Music, told from the perspective of Blanche, a naive burlesque dancer and high rent prostitute (and property owner, she’ll have you know) that narrowly misses getting blasted away by a shotgun, only to have her quirky friend Jenny Bonnet take the hit in her place. Blanche is convinced her ex-lover (or his shady companion) is behind the murder, but why? The novel see saws between Blanche’s first encounter with Jenny, a mere month before her untimely death, and the events after Jenny’s death, to provide a composite portrait of Blanche’s suspicions and why telling the (possible) truth isn’t as simple as it seems.

What Was Happening In San Francisco in 1876?: The setting of Frog Music certainly plays an important role in the overall tale. San Francisco is a bustling city despite the west still being settled; it’s populated by a diverse immigrant population, including the Chinese (which would give rise to the city’s famed Chinatown), the French (where Blanche and her paramour have come from) and the Irish (on who’s homestead Jenny meets her death). A miserable heatwave is ripping through the city almost as prominently as an outbreak of smallpox, both of which factor heavily into Blanche’s story. As you can probably guess, women are very much repressed and primarily regarded as a sexual playthings (at least in Blanche’s world). In fact, Jenny Bonnet is notorious for choosing to wear pants (and getting arrested for it). Also of note? With a few minor exceptions, virtually every character in this book was a real, documented person during this era. Donoghue has basically just gone about crafting an interconnected history for the lot of them.

I Liked Room. What Do The Books Have In Common?:The parallels between Frog Music and Room are, on the surface, hard to draw. Likely not wanting to get pigeonholed, Donoghue has diven deep into the archives of a specific place and time to create something of a historical murder mystery. Room in contrast is written in the present, from a very unique (some people have accused close-to-gimmicky if it weren’t done so well) perspective. And yet there exists some commonalities. The ultimate readability of both novels is certainly present; despite its old timey setting, Frog Music is hardly dry or boring. The attention to detail, of little passing thoughts or observations by the characters, is also a treat. Plus, Donoghue is a writer heavily steeped in research and reality; her books aren’t afraid to touch on the minute realities of a sweltering hot summer sans air conditioning or the low points of being a parent or some rather graphic and disturbing sexual encounters (in both books). Yet she never gets dragged down by the details either, letting the stories flow.

Who Should Read This Book?:Obviously if you’re already a fan of Room, you’ve probably got this one on your to-read list. I can confidently say that although the book is wildly different than Room, it’s still certainly going to hook the attention of many of that book’s readers. If you love historical fiction or murder mysteries, this book dabbles in both. Another recent read that aligns well with this one is Alice Hoffman’s The Museum of Extraordinary Things, primarily because both novels recreate history using a mix of fact and fiction, tied together by a narrative thread (both of which happen to be murders).

If you’re keen on reading this lovely book, it is officially on the shelves right now, for $29.99 as the list price. Now for some further good news; I’ve got a copy of Frog Music to give away to a lucky reader. Here’s how to enter:

1) Tell me in the comments below by April 10th, 2014 – why would you like to read Frog Music?

2) Entries are limited to one per person / per email address / per household (or more if you score bonus entries). A random draw will be conducted on or around April 11th, 2014 to select the winner(s), who will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen in their place.

3) Entries are limited to Canadians that have reached the age of majority in their province. Quebec is not eligible for this promotion.

4) Bonus Entries: Option 1, like HarperCollins Canada on Facebook and leave a comment on why you’d love to read Frog Music. You don’t have to mention the CGG, but you DO have to provide me a link to your Facebook post in the comments below so I can give you a bonus entry.

Option 2, sign up for the 50 Book Pledge and add this book to your ‘To Be Read’ shelf to earn yourself another entry – just provide me a link back to your list so I can credit you! This site is awesome by the by – you can keep visual tabs on all of the books you’ve read or want to read as the year goes on.

***IMPORTANT*** When taking advantage of the bonus entries, please do so by leaving your base entry + each of your bonus entries in separate comments. So for example, one comment on why you want to read Frog Music, one for a link to your FB comment, one for a link to your 50 Book Pledge list.

50 Responses to “Book Report: Frog Music”
  1. Joan G says:

    I’ve read Room and looking forward to another interesting book.

  2. Julie G. says:

    After reading your review, I think Frog Music sounds like a very entertaining read. I’m always on the lookout for new (to me) authors.

  3. Annie D says:

    I’m a big fan of historical fiction, especially this time period. I would love to win this book

  4. Annie D says:

    Already liked HarperCollins on facebook and left a comment :

  5. Annie D says:

    Added to my bookshelf on 50 Book Pledge along with The Room!

  6. ikkinlala says:

    I’d like to read Frog Music both because I was impressed by Room and because I generally enjoy historical fiction. I haven’t read a lot about 1876 San Francisco.

  7. Sue Leonhardt says:

    I read Room and I would love to read this novel.

  8. Lori P says:

    I’m more familiar with Emma Donoghue’s ‘Slammerkin’, which is an engrossing and vivid read, although I’m aware of the buzz, controversy and acclaim that ‘Room’ generated. Would really enjoying discovering her newest historical novel, ‘Frog Music’, too.

  9. Susan says:

    I would like to read this book because I like historic fiction, and Emma Donahue lives in my city!

  10. Susan says:

    I have added this book to my 50 Book Pledge “To Read” shelf.

  11. Holly says:

    I like your book recommendations and it sounds interesting!

  12. Susan says:

    Commented on Harper Collins Canada Facebook page. My comment can be viewed under “Comments by Others”.

  13. Kimberley says:

    I loved Room and would love to read another book by Emma Donoghue. I also love historical fiction and interesting characters. Sounds like this book has both.

  14. Audrey Skinner says:

    I have never read anything by this offer and would love to start with this book because it really sounds mystifying.

  15. Susan T. says:

    Emma Donoghue is such an awesome author and I love historical mysteries!

  16. Susan T. says:

    Added to my 50 Book Pledge shelf:

  17. GARRY S says:


  18. Laura P says:

    I would like to read Frog Music since I really enjoyed Room by Emma Donoghue. I’m excited to see what her new book has to offer.

  19. Marlene says:

    I’m always looking for new authors/books to read. Frog Music sounds like something I would enjoy reading

  20. linnett says:

    Seeing as winter is never going to end here in the Maritimes I would love to read this book, the review was interesting, thanks

  21. Pamalot says:

    I am a fan of Room, but I also like historical fiction and I am eager to try something fresh and new.

  22. Patricia says:

    This author is new to me and seems to have an interesting perspective. I’d love to read her books and this one sounds intriguing.

  23. Angela Mitchell says:

    This book is definitely on my tbr list. My two favourite genres are historical and mystery and when they merge I’m excited!

  24. Edith Rennes says:

    This looks like such a quirky book I think it will turn out to be one of my all time favourites…what an interesting cast of characters.

  25. intensev5 says:

    I need a new book to read right now. This one sounds action packed. Thanks for the chance to win

  26. Anne Derkat says:

    I like historical fiction and have never read this author so would love to see what she does with it.

  27. lucy kabatoff says:

    This book sounds awesome. I would love to win this book.

  28. I read Room and it was really good so i would like to read this too.

  29. cookie3 says:

    Loved “Room” and Emma Donoghue’s writing style. I also love historical fiction , so I’m sure I would love this book as well.

  30. Jacquie Hess says:

    I heard Room was a great read. I would like to read both.

  31. Jeannie says:

    First of all I just want to say that when I started to read you scared me a little. You say that Emma Donoghue was an Irish-Canadian writer. I thought maybe she died! I had to go look her up to double check and see that she is still alive. But I loved Room and Im reading The Museum of Extraordinary Things. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and I would really love to read this one. It sounds really good!

  32. Pam says:

    Sounds like an interesting book.

  33. retromusic says:

    I was sooo moved by Emma Donoghue’s first book (THe Room), it was really haunting and it stayed with me long after I finished the book. I can’t wait to read her follow-up novel!

  34. linnett says:

    I have read Room and enjoyed it, and this one sounds good, she’s a great author, thanks

  35. rebecca g says:

    ROOM was an engaging read and I’d love to read another book by Emma Donahue

  36. Juliee Fitze says:

    The book sounds very interesting and like finding Canadian writers to read.I read Room and couldn’t put it down.

  37. Juliee Fitze says:

    Followed on FB .

  38. Alison K says:

    I would like to read Frog Music ‘cos the plot sounds so outrageous that I’ll like to read how she makes it all work … or doesn’t.

  39. Megan Young says:

    I need a new book to read and this one sounds interesting.

  40. Angela says:

    Im going to san fran!!

  41. amber y says:

    I’d like to win frog music because i’ve yet to read it. i’m always engrossed in a book or two and i’m always on the look out for the next book to be read.

    Ayoung3360 (at) hotmail (dot) com

  42. Marj Turner says:

    sounds like a good Canadian story, lots of plot twists

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