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Stop Making Sense

I read anything that's nailed down, or even just moving slowly. Cereal boxes, candy wrappers, all genres, etc., and I don't always have much time for arbitrary distinctions like literary fiction vs. genre fiction.

Focused on the Wrong Character...

Frog Music - Emma Donoghue

Based on a true story, Frog Music is ostensibly about solving the murder of Jenny, a woman who was independent at a time when that was really, really threatening. But it is actually the story of Blanche, a French immigrant who isn't independent for most of the book. Too bad. Because although Jenny is interesting and mysterious, Blanche is unlikeable, poorly drawn, blind (in the emotional sense), and too stupid to live, in some ways.

It doesn't help that the author focuses on ooh-la-la highlighting of sex, straight or otherwise. Here's a hint: there's really nothing new under the sun, OK?

And although Donoghue clearly researched 1876 San Francisco, she beats us over the head with it--a book set in the aftermath of the Gold Rush, when people all over the world were flocking to the City by the Bay, shouldn't be a slog. But this one is. I started skimming about halfway through the book; I couldn't help it.

And finally, the solution to the "mystery" feels cheap. There's no buildup, no foreshadowing, except through the crutch of jumps back and forth in time. The setup wouldn't have held if the story had been told in a linear structure.

What Donoghue did do well was portray the Chinese immigrants and madams/prostitutes working in the city, and the general sense of squalor mixed with possibility. She also gave us a vivid character in Jenny--I would have liked to have read her story.

I'd recommend this for people especially interested in San Francisco, but read it for the setting, not the story.