The Confessions of Frannie Langton Review
The Confessions of Frannie Langton
Once I heard that one of Sara Collin’s inspirations for Frannie was Jane Eyre, how could I not pick up this book. I’ve loved Jane Eyre since the first time that I read it as a teenager and still love it now. Sharing a love of books, a desire to better herself and not accepting her current position as the final one, the determined characters of Jane and Frannie have their obvious similarities.
The book opens in 1826 with Frannie's trial at the Old Bailey on the charge of the brutal double murder of Mr & Mrs Benham. Frannie doesn't remember what happened that night & can't believe she could have murdered the only person she's ever truly loved. The novel is Frannie's story which she is writing down for her lawyer. She says at the start of her story: “In truth, no one expects any kind of story from a woman like me. No doubt you think this will be one of those slave histories, all sugared over with misery and despair. But who’d want to read one of those?”
She goes right back to the beginning, to Paradise, Langton’s sugar plantation in Jamaica where she grew up as a slave, where she learnt to read and where she was forced to be an apprentice for Langton’s unethical scientific studies. She is brought to London, but still isn’t really free as Langton gives her to Mr Benham as a gift. Her story continues through her time in London, including her secret relationship with Madame Benham, and culminates in the outcome of her trial.
This is a wonderful, gothic novel with an extremely strong, female lead character. I loved that Frannie refused to bow down to pressure to conform. She refused to keep quiet and accept her fate. She spoke out in unexpected ways: “…in the whole sum of human history, by what order have you white men been wrong more often than you’ve been right?”
Sara Collins wished to write an historical love story with a strong, angry, black woman as it’s heroine. She wanted to explore the issue of women being controlled by men (through marriage or ownership) and how this unites women. And she wanted to write a story about a woman who happened to have been a slave rather than a story about slavery & victims. She has certainly achieved all of these things in this incredible novel.