I didn’t realized that, when reading “Frog Music”, the basis of the book was factual. I love books like this – historical facts and figures that a story is woven around.
The story rests on Jenny’s murder and the mystery around it. The time was 1800’s San Francisco Gold Rush, during a smallpox epidemic and heat wave. It seems that all of the characters in this book are real – Blanche, Jenny, and Blanche’s “fancy men”. Blanche was a real life soiled dove and burlesque dancer, and a former circus performer before finding herself whoring in San Fransisco to support her men. Jenny is touted as being a gender pioneer and went by the name Jean, presenting and dressing (and getting arrested multiple times) as male. He is the Frog Catcher in this book, which has so many underlying meanings. Frog catcher because he caught frogs to sell to the many pubs (the California Red-Legged frog was hunted to almost extinction during the San Francisco Gold Rush) and because he caught Blanche herself, a Frog – a French woman. Frog music is also the story of Blanche’s son, P’tite, who was left at a children’s farm that ends up being a horrorific nightmare. He metamorphs from a weak child with rickets, a tadpole of sorts, to a real child that Blanche loves fiercely. There is a great deal of music in the book as well – songs from that time period that told tales of the hard lives of the people.
While we never learn the absolute truth about Jenny/Jean’s murder, the book is exceptional.