I am so glad that Donoghue has returned to historical fiction, in this her latest offering. Based on the unsolved murder, in San Francisco during the latter part of the 1800's; the murder being that of Jenny Bonnet, a cross dressing, frog catcher with a mysterious past. She and Blanche become friends after Jenny runs into her with her while riding her high wheeler.
Blanche, who had come from France with her two, well one was her lover and the other his friend, has become a dancer and prostitute for the House of Mirrors. There are many graphic sex scenes, but Blanche loves sex and never apologizes for who she is. What complicates everyones life is that Blanche had a baby and became very ill, during this time her baby was farmed out.
There are many impeccable historical details, a heatwave that ravaged the west coast, the small pox epidemic pf 1876 and of course the horrific baby farms.
The story drew me in, it was hard not to like Blanche and Jenny despite Blanche's occupation. She was a smart woman, she liked what she liked and did what she did to earn the most money that she could. Watching her change from a somewhat self centered young woman, to falling in love with her rescued son was a brilliant feat of writing. The period songs included added to the tone that they novel conveyed. At times I felt I was there living with Blanche, though hopefully not doing what she was doing, but just to say that the setting were very vivid. I also loved that the author included a lengthy afterward, detailing who and what were real or not. Most of these characters and events were actual events.
Probably not for everyone, but I do believe that those who read this will find much to enjoy.
ARC from publisher.