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The Confessions of Frannie Langton: Book Review

By Sara Collins

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

What’s it about?

London, 1826, and Frannie Langton is on trial for murder. Slave, whore, savage – that’s what the white men call her. But did she really kill the only person she ever truly loved?

Her story begins on a Jamaican plantation and ends in a Newgate cell. But what went on in between, only she can tell you that.


“Whites with skin grated raw and pocked as orange peel. Hard, hungry faces. The children were the worst. Hands quick, eyes slow. The first tingles of fear drained through me when I saw those children. I knew only too well that eyes have only two choices. Open or shut. When they go too wide, too black, it’s because they can’t make space for all they’ve seen.”

“The jurors, the judge, all of you, are men, made loose by balls and bragging, with no earthly notion how tight it can get inside a woman’s skin.”

My thoughts

Wow. What a heart-wrenching, thought-provoking read. The subjects are difficult to face – slavery, horrific human experiments, drug addiction, racism, sexism, incest, murder. This is a book which does not shy away from the darkest sides of human nature. It is brutal, and the injustice Frannie Langton faces on a daily basis is infuriating and sickening.

And yet, for all the horror within the pages, the author Sara Collins writes so beautifully that it is also a joy to read. There is love and devotion. There is loyalty. Despite all the hardships she has faced, Frannie somehow manages to remain hopeful and stubborn. She wants a better life. She wants love, happiness, freedom. She wants to forget the dreadful things she did, or was made to do. She is a character torn between knowing she is both worthy and unworthy, both good and bad. Her complexity meant she leapt out of the pages, dragged me into Georgian England with her, and made me feel what she did.  

With twists and turns I didn’t see coming, it’s somewhere bordering historical literary fiction and mystery and suspense. It transports you to the cramped, animalistic conditions of the Old Bailey, the frigid suffocation of life in a wealthy London townhouse, and the barbarism of a colonial sugar plantation. It is a stunning piece of gothic historical literature, which I cannot recommend enough.

In her own words, Collins writes of the inspiration which led to the book:

“Francis Barber was a young Jamaican boy brought to London in the eighteenth century and sent into service in the household of Samuel Johnson; Johnson wrote that he’d been ‘given me by a friend’. The idea of being ‘given’ in England, where all men were supposed to be free, was the springboard for this novel.”

About the author

There is a wonderful interview with Sara Collins on this blog.

Below is a snippet from the introduction:

“The idea for Frannie Langton began to take shape during Collins’ time studying for an MA in Creative Writing at the University of Cambridge. It is there that Collins won the Michael Holroyd Prize of Re-creative Writing (2015) and was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize (2016). In April, Frannie Langton was published to immediate acclaim, with the novel being tipped as one of the must read books for 2019 by The Times, The Observer and The Guardian. It has recently been selected by O, The Oprah Magazine as part of their Summer Reading List and was described by Margaret Atwood ‘as deep-diving and elegant…Wide Sargasso Sea meets Beloved meets Alias Grace.’”

Buy it on Amazon.


About the author

Delphine Woods

Delphine Woods

Delphine Woods is an author who loves to write historical mysteries and thrillers. 

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