Frog Music

04/12/2017

Frog Music

By Emma Donoghue

 

In the year 1876, just after the gold rush in San Francisco, a young woman named Jenny is arrested for wearing pants.

In the same year, a burlesque performer called Blanche la Danseuse is paid handsomely for thrilling her customers with outrageous spectacles.

 

On a sweltering afternoon, Jenny knocks Blanche to the ground with her high wheeler bike.  This is the beginning of a tumultuous relationship that forces Blanche to take stock of her life and to make drastic changes in order to regain control of it. The story occurs over the course of a single month in which the women frequent bordellos, taverns, and all manner of dangerous places in their Chinatown neighbourhood.

 

To add drama to an already fraught situation, there is a smallpox epidemic raging throughout the city, bringing with it quarantines (houses boarded up for six weeks, with or without food), and terror. The descriptions of San Francisco are fascinating; you can taste the dust from the street, smell the open sewers, and hear the cacophony of cart drivers and vendors. Racism, sexism, and police corruption are commonplace as Blanche runs the gauntlet daily in this young metropolis, trying to take back the reigns of her life.

 

There are several delicious characters that you will want to hate and some courageous ones that you will surely love. Donoghue fleshes out her cast in three dimensions, declining to portray them simply as stock villains or heroes. Jenny, in particular, seems like someone that you might sit down and have a drink with. In this rollicking ride through San Francisco, we cheer for the victories of these lionhearted women, and cry over their defeats in what is truly an American tale.

Frog Music by sonja_library