I am so happy I had the chance to read this novel. It bent a lot of my expectations and taught me that going into a book blind can be a great thing! More people need to know Frannie’s story, which is why I bring you this review today.
Title: The Confessions of Frannie Langton
Author: Sara Collins
Genre: Historical Fiction, adult
Published on May 21st, 2019 by Harper
London, 1826. The city is a frenzy awaiting to hear the outcome of Frannie Langton’s trial. The Jamaican maid is being charged with two murders, that of Mr. and Mrs. Benham, her masters. Frannie swears she did not kill anyone, but the evidence seems damning — slave, whore, black, seductress — and the prosecution is itching to have her hung. But for the first time, Frannie tells her story in this book.
Trigger warnings: mentions of rape, gore, miscarriage, physical and emotional violence
Disclaimer: I received an eARC of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest and fair review. This has not affected my opinion.
There are so many things this book did right and some things that prevented me from giving it a four- or five-star rating. I’ll say that my feelings are mixed, but that Collins is, indeed, a great writer. So come dive into this book with me. What did I really think of it?
➸ We hear Frannie’s voice, at last
Right at the beginning of the book we learn that it is told entirely through Frannie’s eyes. This is her only chance to publicly announce the truth. Not what her defense attorneys or what the prosecutors make her out to be, but the true Frannie.
I think this is a very refreshing way of telling this story. Sure, everyone in London in 1826 sees Frannie in a distorted light, which culminates with the outcome of her trial, but no one but us knows the real Frannie. She is human with all her desires, sins, faults, and quirks, and that’s why I really liked her character. It was well worked and we got to really know her.
➸ The world isn’t black or white
There are a lot of questionable things in this novel. Not even Frannie is a perfect, saintly character — which is her strongest suit. A lot of questions about what is moral and ethical are discussed in The Confessions of Frannie Langton. To me, this makes the whole novel all the more interesting.
Frannie’s story is not an easy one to tell. From her days as a house slave back in Jamaica to her days as a live-in maid in a London wealthy home, there is a lot of trauma and emotional baggage. The world around Frannie isn’t neatly defined, so a lot of that carries over to our main character’s personality.
I really appreciate Collins’s boldness to approach sensitive topics with such honesty and steering clear from sugar coating reality.
➸ It is not a slave narrative
Frannie will be the first to tell you that her story is not a slave story. She is much beyond that. Her goal is to, during her days in prison, at least, have the control over her life that she has never been granted. In writing this book as a forensic memoir, of sorts, she is taking power for herself and refusing to be written down in history as a slave who has killed her masters out of spite.
It ties incredibly well with the way Collins owns up to the fact that life isn’t simple. A person’s motivations can be hidden and not obvious from the get-go.
I loved all the quotations we get to read about Frannie’s stance on black slave stories. According to her, these are the only stories blacks are allowed to tell, not because white audiences appreciate hearing them for their worth, but so they can feel better about themselves and the fact that they “are not like other white people.” This is still such a big issue and debate even nowadays.
The issue of black creativity and white audience cultural consumption patterns is one I would love to get into but can’t presently. If you want to explore this topic forward, please pick up this book!
➸ There is a f/f relationship in all this!
I apparently missed the memo that this book has a lesbian relationship very much at its core. This is not a spoiler, but Frannie and Mrs. Benham enter a secret relationship founded on what we believe is love and affection for one another. I was not expecting an interracial f/f relationship being portrayed in a historical fiction book set in London, 1826!
It left me pleasantly surprised. I loved the scenes where the two women could be themselves behind closed doors. Their connection felt real, which added even more depth to the novel
➸ The pacing is off sometimes
Unfortunately, what kept me from loving this book was the messiness of the pacing. At times, everything seemed to be happening all at once. Other times, there seemed to be dozens of pages of nothing happening. It felt unbalanced. It threw me off from the story and made me lose track of what was happening in the novel.
➸ I still don’t quite understand the ending…
It’s probably all my fault, but I still don’t understand how the whole plot wrapped up. Because the pace was off, in my opinion, I tuned out of the story more times than I would have liked to. On top of that, the constant twists and turns made it hard to sometimes follow the plot. Either that or I was thoroughly exhausted after all my exams…
Have you read or heard of The Confessions of Frannie Langton? If so, what did you think of it? Would you be interested to read it? Let’s talk! ☺️