They say I must be put to death for what happened to Madame, and they want me to confess. But how can I confess what I don’t believe I’ve done?
1826, and all of London is in a frenzy. Crowds gather at the gates of the Old Bailey to watch as Frannie Langton, maid to Mr and Mrs Benham, goes on trial for their murder. The testimonies against her are damning – slave, whore, seductress. And they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth.
For the first time Frannie must tell her story. It begins with a girl learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, and it ends in a grand house in London, where a beautiful woman waits to be freed.
But through her fevered confessions, one burning question haunts Frannie Langton: could she have murdered the only person she ever loved?
What I Thought:
As someone who has dabbled in writing, thanks to NaNoWriMo, it’s always particularly galling when a debut novel comes to your attention, and you find that it is superbly written and generally excellent. And so it is with The Confessions of Frannie Langton.
Sara Collins has produced a highly researched and beautifully evocative novel of the early 19th Century, with all the good and bad things that that implies. While the slave trade has been stopped, Frannie herself is still a slave in Jamaica as the British continue to argue about whether the practice should be outlawed altogether – but how terrible to remove a man’s property without compensating him! Don’t you just love how people justify bad things to each other?
This book, however, adds extra wrinkles to Frannie’s character in that she is taught to read by her mistress and then instructed to assist John Langton with his experiments to prove that Whites and Blacks are not related, and that Blacks are inferior in every way – as you can imagine, this is enraging to read framed in modern times but, I am assured, was a common enough practice at that time.
We don’t find out exactly what has gone on until the end of the book but, based on Frannie’s character and subsequent behaviour, we can assume that it was horrific to witness and take part in.
I can’t explain much more of the plot without straying into spoilers, but Frannie’s relationship with ‘Madame’ is compelling and, again, beautifully researched and written.
Loving historical fiction as I do, this book is an excellent example of the genre and definitely one to add to your reading list. Not only is is a good read, it is a prime example of books as art, as it has been beautifully designed, with an embroidered design on the cover which is embossed and overlaid with gold foil, and gorgeous endpapers of a contemporary William Morris design – I honestly could not stop running my fingers over the cover as I was reading!
To find out more about this book and Sara Collins, you can connect with her on Twitter.
The Confessions of Frannie Langton is published in the UK by Viking Books.
This post is part of the blog tour celebrating the publication of The Confessions of Frannie Langton. For more reviews and exclusive content, why not check out some of the brilliant blogs below?
Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review purposes. All opinions are, as ever, my own.