Wednesday 11 December 2019

Review by Kathy Hoyle of “The Confessions of Frannie Langton” by Sara Collins

Frannie Langton is on trial at The Old Bailey and the crowds are baying for the blood of the ‘Mulatta Murderess’.

‘Any gaol-bird could tell you that for every crime there are two stories, and that an Old Bailey trial is the story of the crime, not the story of the prisoner.
That story is one only I can tell’ 

Frannie’s lawyer gives her a sheaf of paper, ink and pen, so that she may confess the terrible secrets she has kept so close, and somehow find a way to escape the noose. 

This meticulously researched bawdy, brutal tale brings to life to Regency England, where reputation is far more important than truth, and freedom is an impossible dream.   

As a young girl Frannie Langton is given her massa’s name and brought into the big house in Paradise, Jamaica, but for what reason? Living in fear of her spiteful mistress Miss Bella and with no answers from Phibba the housekeeper, Frannie must learn to fend for herself under Massa Langton’s watchful eye. Soon Frannie learns just how terrible the mind of an inquisitive gentleman can be. When Langton forces her to perform his ‘negro’ experiments alongside him, Frannie is drawn into unspeakable acts, scarring her soul forever.  

A fortuitous event follows. A fire wipes out the Plantation and sees Langton flee, with the only chattel he has left… Frannie. Could this be the chance for freedom Frannie has hoped for? Gifted to the prominent writer George Benham in return for the publishing of his scientific papers, Langton ensures that Frannie is simply passed from one wicked master’s hands to another. 

The only light in Frannie’s life is her new mistress, the beautiful but delicate Madame Marguerite. As the love between maid and mistress grows, terrible secrets unfold. Both women are slaves to the master, each one suffocated with dreams of freedom… and then the unthinkable happens. A double murder in the Bentham household, and Frannie is the only suspect. 

The confessions of Frannie Langton is a stunning debut from Sara Collins. The inherent racism of colonial England comes through loud and horrifically clear as we follow Frannie in her search for freedom and a love that crosses the boundaries of race, gender and class.  Collins weaves gothic strands of tension throughout the story with a masterful edge, holding us in the palm of her hand as we wait with bated breath, for Frannie’s final day of judgement. A page-turner from the get-go, this novel will leave you breathless. 

About the Reviewer  
Kathy Hoyle is an MA graduate of Creative Writing at the University of Leicester. Her Flash fiction and short stories have appeared in various Online Zines. She has been shortlisted for The Exeter Short Story Award, The Fish Publishing Short Memoir prize and the Ellipsiszine Flash Fiction Collection Competition. 

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