The Confessions of Frannie Langton

Written by Sara Collins
Review by Linda Sever

It is 1826, and in London, a former Jamaican slave, Frannie Langton, is working as a servant to Mr and Mrs Benham, a highly respected philosopher and his wife. Frannie has a good life. But through circumstances leading to a love affair with her mistress, Frannie finds herself accused of a double murder and is incarcerated in Newgate Prison awaiting her trial. She passes her time writing the story of her life. At the trial Frannie has to tell this story for the first time, but even she begins to question herself as to whether she could have carried out the murders.

Told in a series of 54 very short chapters, some only a page long, and broken down into sections depending on location, Frannie unravels her tale in a series of chronological flashbacks. These begin with her as a young girl learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, moving to her working for the Benhams and ending with the prison and the trial. Interspersed throughout are the testimonies and extracts from journals, letters, and diaries, each one confirming Frannie’s guilt. At the centre of the novel is a deeply complex, passionate and forbidden love story between two women, giving society even more reason to condemn her. But there is more, much more. At every turn of the page something new is revealed that draws the reader into the dark world of Georgian England’s skewed conventions.

This book is more than just a Georgian slave narrative. It is a gothic murder mystery, love story, and a tale of a woman determined to succeed in a world that prevents her at every turn. It is an astonishing piece of writing, and even at the end you are left wondering what actually happened. Highly recommended.