Please note, this review cannot possibly do this book the justice it deserves. The fault lies with me.
Fiction masterpiece. Not a label I dole out easily, but in this case it is very well deserved. Emma Donoghue is an author that is well known around the world, most recently for her dark and eloquent novel Room and Astray, a fantastic short story collection. Her newest novel Frog Music went on sale this week with the type of high expectations that surround an author with a pedigree like Donoghue’s. See below for her past literary achievements…
Astray (the Hachette audiobook) won the 2013 Audie Award for a Multi-Voice Audiobook
2011 National Lesbian and Gay Federation (Ireland) Person of the Year Award
Room won the 2010 Hughes & Hughes Irish Novel of the Year, the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the 2011 Commonwealth Prize for Fiction (Canada & Carribbean), W. H. Smith Paperback of the Year (Galaxy National Book Awards), the Forest of Reading Evergreen Award, two Libris Awards from the Canadian Booksellers’ Association (Fiction Book and Author of the Year), and two awards from the American Library Association (Indie Choice Award for Adult Fiction and an Alex Award for an adult book with special appeal to teen readers)
Inseparable: Desire Between Women in Literature won the 2011 Stonewall Book Awards – Israel Fishman Non-Fiction Award (from the American Library Association)
The Sealed Letter was joint winner of the 2009 Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction
Landing won the 2008 Golden Crown Literary Award (Lesbian Dramatic General Fiction)
Slammerkin won the 2002 Ferro-Grumley Award for Lesbian Fiction
Hood won the 1997 American Library Association’s Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Book Award (now known as the Stonewall Book Award)
Astray was shortlisted for the 2012 Eason Irish Novel of the Year, and the Edge Hill Short Story Prize, and ‘The Hunt’, one of its stories, was shortlisted for the 2012 Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award
Room was shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize, the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Trillium English Book Award, and International Author of the Year (Galaxy National Book Awards)
Life Mask was shortlisted for the 2005 Ferro-Grumley Award for Lesbian Fiction and the Lambda Award for Lesbian Fiction
The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits was shortlisted for the 2003 Stonewall Book Award Slammerkin was shortlisted for the 2001 Irish Times Irish Fiction Prize
The Mammoth Book of Lesbian Short Stories [reissued 2013 as Love Alters] was shortlisted for the 2000 Lambda Award for Lesbian Anthology
Poems Between Women [UK title What Sappho Would Have Said] was shortlisted for the 1999 Lambda Award for Lesbian Anthology
Kissing the Witch was shortlisted for the 1997 James L. Tiptree Award
Passions Between Women was shortlisted for the 1997 Lambda Award for Lesbian Non-Fiction
Stir-fry was shortlisted for the 1996 Lambda Award for Lesbian Fiction
I Know My Own Heart was shortlisted for the 1994 Stewart Parker Award for Best Irish Debut Play
Ok, so maybe you skipped through some of the awards, but you get the point. It’s an impressive resume, and this doesn’t even include the Longlist!
Frog Music is as close to modern literary perfection as I have read for a long, long time. It’s enjoyable and intelligent, but not in your face or over-the-top. The story is magnificently well crafted and is so well researched that the reader cannot help but be immersed in 1876 San Francisco, only to surface for air and realize that it is 2014 and this winter is never going to end. The story follows a French Burlesque dancer named Blanche and the murder of her cross-dressing frog-catcher friend, Jenny Bonnet. Filled with unsavoury characters, fast-paced twists and turns, deception and lies, and an amazing amount of determination Frog Music is a novel that will leave you breathless, but contemplative in the best ways possible. I would whole heartedly recommend this book for fans of Donoghue’s past work, historical fiction, strong female lead characters and mysteries. This has must-read written all over it.
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