Sara Collins wanted to write a tribute to Jane Eyre but with a protagonist who would have lived outside the margins set by history … and to see what would happen if she allowed her to be angry. She has achieved this and much more in her literary debut, The Confessions of Frannie Langton. I’ve savoured every single word!
I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts on the last day of the tour today.
‘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. It begins with a girl learning to read on a plantation in Jamaica, and it ends in a grand house in London, where a beautiful woman waits to be freed.
But through her fevered confessions, one burning question haunts Frannie Langton: could she have murdered the only person she ever loved?
A beautiful and haunting tale about one woman’s fight to tell her story, The Confessions of Frannie Langton leads you through laudanum-laced dressing rooms and dark-as-night back alleys, into the enthralling heart of Georgian London.
The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins is published by Viking and is available to purchase in digital, hardcover and audiobook formats with the paperback releasing at a later date.
Frannie is growing up in a time when the slave trade was abolished but nothing had changed (although enslaved people’s lives became much worse). She has a core of steel but no matter where she is, on the sugar plantation Paradise in the West Indies or in Georgian London with the Benham’s, she is someone else’s experiment or used for what she can give. As long as she is useful there is a place for her.
She’s independent in spirit – a woman going against mainstream and expectations, not fitting in anywhere. Marguerite Benham is quirky, walks to the beat of a different drum, a radical thinker. As mistress and maid the boundaries are fluid. Even before the laudanum, their time together feels other-worldly and dreamlike … Sara Collins captures the mind of an addict and the effects really well. She made me believe this was my life too.
I really enjoyed Sara Collins writing style too, her use of figurative language making this a very visual read for me. There are snippets of wisdom, I loved this from Frannie:
“But, looking back now, I see that your own life can be a story you tell yourself, that you can be both the person reading and the thing being read.”
I became so immersed in Frannie’s life as she writes her story that I often forgot she was on trial and that there was an ending waiting at the trial in the Old Bailey.
So many emotions! I loved experiencing the shadow side of life vicariously through Frannie, at times out of my comfort zone, but understanding motives and actions. And hoping that I would have the strength to do the same if it had been my life.
An outstanding read.
Sara Collins studied law at the London School of Economics and worked as a lawyer for seventeen years. In 2014 she embarked upon the Creative Writing Masters at Cambridge University, where she won the 2015 Michael Holroyd Prize of Re-creative Writing and was shortlisted for the 2016 Lucy Cavendish Prize for a book inspired by her love of gothic fiction. This turned into her first novel, The Confessions of Frannie Langton.
Connect with Sara Collins on Twitter @mrsjaneymac