STARRED REVIEW
June 2019

The Confessions of Frannie Langton

By Sara Collins

Former slave Frannie Langton is warned early in her service to her London employer, George Benham, that “a good servant must know her place, to be content in it.” Frannie readily admits that this has “always been my trouble. Never knowing my place or being content in it.”

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Former slave Frannie Langton is warned early in her service to her London employer, George Benham, that “a good servant must know her place, to be content in it.” Frannie readily admits that this has “always been my trouble. Never knowing my place or being content in it.”

Frannie, who is fiercely independent, immediately likable and stubbornly contrary to the expectations of her role in society, shares many such admissions while awaiting trial for the murder of Benham and his wife, Marguerite. What Frannie can’t account for is how she wound up covered in their blood and being charged with their murders. In an effort to make sense of it all, Frannie pens her life story from jail. What follows is a literary sojourn as Frannie explores her place in history through race, class and sexuality.

Set in the early 1800s, The Confessions of Frannie Langton begins with Frannie’s life as a slave on a Jamaican plantation and her education in reading and writing. From there, she recounts how she attained her “freedom” when her master took her to London, where he “gifted” her to the Benhams, and how she eventually began a love affair with Marguerite. The story casually meanders through Frannie’s narrative in a mostly linear fashion but is interspersed with snippets from the trial in progress, including damning testimony and fiery newspaper accounts, making certain that readers don’t forget what’s at stake.

First-time novelist Sara Collins, a lawyer of Jamaican descent and winner of the 2015 Michael Holroyd Prize for Creative Writing, crafted her debut as a tribute to Jane Eyre, “but with a protagonist who would have lived outside the margins set by history.” In that regard, Collins has succeeded admirably, resulting in a novel that reads like a classic gothic romance.

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