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The Confessions of Frannie Langton Reviews

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

The Confessions of Frannie Langton

Sara Collins

3.77 out of 5

6 reviews

Imprint: Viking
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Publication date: 4 Apr 2019
ISBN: 9780241349199

They say I must be put to death for what happened to Madame, and they want me to confess. But how can I confess what I don't believe I've done?' 1826, and all of London is in a frenzy. Crowds gather at the gates of the Old Bailey to watch as Frannie Langton, maid to Mr and Mrs Benham, goes on trial for their murder. The testimonies against her are damning - slave, whore, seductress. And they may be the truth. But they are not the whole truth. For the first time Frannie must tell her story.

1 Prize for The Confessions of Frannie Langton

Costa Book Awards
2019 Shortlist

First Novel Award

Costa Book Awards Judges: “Rich and compelling – an historical page-turner with stunning prose.”


4 stars out of 5
Hannah Beckerman
21 Apr 2019

"A female slave breaks all the boundaries in this compelling debut that revives the gothic novel"

There is an impressive smorgasbord of themes at play: race, gender, class, sexuality, depression, science, education and the psychological effects of servitude. In Frannie Langton, Collins has created a truly memorable heroine and written a compelling gothic novel for our times.

4 stars out of 5
5 Apr 2019

"written in vivid, at times hectic, prose"

Educated by her previous master but also forced to participate in horrific experiments on other slaves, Frannie was brought to England and given to the Benhams. She falls under the spell of the troubled, neurotic Marguerite, who believes that women have a moral imperative to think about their lives. Frannie’s experiences, written in vivid, at times hectic, prose, reveal a brutal world. The plot has a Gothic edge with a melodramatic overtone, but the racism and cruelty are all too real.

5 stars out of 5
Natasha Pulley
4 Apr 2019

"a stunning debut"

...I love this book. Collins hasn’t just written an authentic gothic novel: she rugby tackles the notion of the saintly girl who emerges from suffering rather improved by it. But nor does Collins subscribe to the modern style of the genre, Hill’s soft rustle of old-fashioned garments. She is entirely her own writer. Between her historical research, Frannie’s voice and a plot that never slows to a walk, the novel pulls the gothic into new territory and links it back to its origins. It points at the reader and asks whether it might be a sign of atrocious privilege to enjoy a genre devoted to the grotesque – especially when the grotesquerie comes from things that might plausibly have happened in the name of science and sugar money.

3 stars out of 5
Antonia Senior
2 Apr 2019

"There is lots to love in this impressive debut."

There is lots to love in this impressive debut. Sara Collins is interesting on race and power. Frannie is an unforgettable character with a delicious, wicked turn of phrase. Jamaica is “sun-addled. Heat like biting ants. Light like blades.” The distance between the two islands is stark: “An English winter is a season of dying things, of long waiting, of wool-thick skies.” In her introduction, Collins talks of a childhood in Jamaica reading English classics and wanting to place a Jamaican slave girl at the heart of a gothic romance. This novel is a self-conscious homage to Moll Flanders and Jane Eyre, with lots of gothic tropes thrown in. The plot is a bit of a muddle as a result. Collins is a star in the making; I would love to see her find a story as dazzlingly original as her voice.

3 stars out of 5
Sarah Gilmartin
30 Mar 2019

"A captivating historical debut about a slave girl on trial for a double murder"

The Confessions of Frannie Langton is in a similar vein, an otherwise charming debut that doesn’t quite earn its length. An original and evocative tale with elements of Gothic fiction, its story becomes unwieldly in later parts and the mysteries that are so skilfully established in the early chapters are buried under the weight of too much action. There is, however, plenty to recommend in Collins’ writing: vivid characters, lush settings, a captivating heroine and an intelligent, unsentimental analysis of her tragic history.

3 stars out of 5
Nick Rennison
24 Mar 2019

"a bold attempt to place a black heroine at the heart of a gothic romance"

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins... is a bold attempt to place a black heroine at the heart of a gothic romance. Frannie Langton is a slave from Jamaica, educated by her master for his own selfish reasons and forced to help him in increasingly cruel and deranged experiments on his other slaves. Brought to England, she works as maid for Mr and Mrs Benham, and embarks on a passionate affair with her mistress before tragedy strikes. Told as Frannie’s memoir from Newgate prison, Collins’s debut novel provides a powerful story, although the central relationship between maid and mistress does not entirely ring true.