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The Confessions of Frannie Langton

by Sara Collins

Books with reviews by our Reader Review Panel Debut Books of the Month Debuts Historical Fiction Relationship Stories Sharing Diverse Voices

LoveReading View on The Confessions of Frannie Langton

The Old Bailey, 1826 and Frannie Langton stands in court accused of the brutal murder of her former master and mistress. But “there was love between me and her”, she tells the court as she relates her story from 1812, when she worked at Paradise plantation, Jamaica. With the skills of reading and writing “packed inside” her, “dangerous as gunpowder”, Frannie is taken to London and sent to work for a man named George Benham. His wife, the beautiful, eccentric Madame Marguerite Benham “stirred a feeling of wanting” in Frannie, and she becomes Madame’s lady’s maid and secretary - and more. But theirs is a complex, volatile relationship. “The truth is there was love as well as hate,” Frannie acknowledges. “The truth is, the love hurt worse”.

Speaking at her trial, during which she recounts the inhumane racial experimentation undertaken by the master of Paradise, Frannie asks, “Sirs, I the whole sum of human history, by what order have you white men been wrong more than you’ve been right?” She also questions the privileges and entitlements of gender: “how confident a man must be to write down his musings, expecting anybody else to be interested in reading them”. 

Ablaze with drama, detail, tension and wit, and wise on the nature of agency and freedom, this comes highly recommended for fans of Andrea Levy’s The Long Song, Marlon James’s The Book of Night Women and Sarah Waters. 

According to Frannie, “A novel is like a long, warm drink but a poem is a spike through the head”. By her definition, this novel is both these things - as potent as a poem, as addictive as a long, warm drink.

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Joanne Owen

The Confessions of Frannie Langton Synopsis

'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? 

The Confessions of Frannie Langton Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can click here to read the full reviews.

Brilliant and original book - gothic murder mystery, historical novel, love story and a lot more. Full review

Ann Peet

What a debut! Gritty, dark, hard-hitting, sensitive and eye-opening regarding women’s lives in the 19th Century. Full review

Alexandra Harper-Williams

A enjoyable debut novel that I recommend reading. Full review


The Confessions of Frannie Langton Press Reviews

A powerful meditation on slavery, racism and autonomy - New Scientist

A stunning debut...the old gothic soaks The Confessions of Frannie Langton so richly that fumes come off it . . . That's why 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... 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 -- Natasha Pulley - Guardian

Frannie Langton shows us a world of men doing their utmost to make her a monster - but she is defiantly, thoughtfully human, her urgent words holding a mirror up to others' misdeeds, and her own. Sara Collins' writing moves with subtle energy, fleshing out a 19th-century world of plantations and London bawdy-houses that feels as real as the palm of your hand -- Beth Underdown, author of 'The Witchfinder's Sister' Sweeping and addictive...Collins has created an epic tale that'll make for total book club joy. Prepare to pass it on to friend after friend - Stylist

Collins has created in her title character a complex, melancholy, and trenchantly observant protagonist; too conflicted in motivation, perhaps, to be considered a heroine but as dynamic and compelling as any character conceived by a Bronte sister. Collins invokes both Voltaire and Defoe here, and she forges an unlikely but sadly harmonic connection with both these enlightenment heroes in her gripping, groundbreaking debut. - Kirkus

Frannie Langton is a unique literary creation in this pitch-perfect gothic novel: a Jamaican former slave who is both the heart and heroine of the story. I loved this moving, beguiling, gorgeously-written book -- Kate Riordan, author of 'The Girl in the Photograph' A spectacular, dark novel, with elements of Jane Eyre and Paradise Lost . . . Just like all really good Gothic stories, it keeps you balancing right on the edge of not wanting to look, but feeling like you can't look away . . . An absolute gem that points at you and asks whether it might be a sign of horrifying privilege, to enjoy a genre devoted to the grotesque. -- Natasha Pulley, author of 'The Watchmaker of Filigree Street' Frannie's voice is compelling: tender and furious and wholly deserving of attention -- Jessie Greengrass, author of 'Sight' What an extraordinary, exhilarating and fiercely intelligent book. I loved Frannie and she felt so very real and alive to me -- Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of 'The Last Act of Love' An accomplished and powerful debut [that] recalls the best of Sarah Waters...Collins's crisp, precise prose and simmering atmosphere of danger are as seductive as her protagonist...I cannot recommend highly enough -- E C Fremantle, author of 'The Poison Bed' I loved it...Not only a good read but an important book, reminding us of both how far the world has come and how little it has changed. I was gripped, amused, and saddened. I ate Sara Collins' words up as though they were the sugar, or laudanum, that she writes about so evocatively. It's a glory of a book. -- Stephanie Butland I loved this novel. A literary page-turner, an engrossing murder mystery, and a deep meditation on freedom, choice, and what it means to have a voice, Sara Collins' writing is as seductive as it is elusive - just like Frannie Langton herself. For all its horrors, I could have dallied in this opium-addled world with Frannie endlessly, another addict, hooked on Collins' words. -- Rebecca F. John, author of 'The Haunting of Henry Twist' Original and evocative . . . vivid characters, lush settings, a captivating heroine and an intelligent, unsentimental analysis of her tragic history - Irish Times

A book of heart, soul and guts...beautifully written, lushly evocative, and righteously furious. Frannie might be a 19th century character, but she is also a heroine for our times -- Elizabeth Day, author of 'The Party' By turns lush, gritty, wry, gothic and compulsive, The Confessions of Frannie Langton is a dazzling page turner. With as much psychological savvy as righteous wrath, Sara Collins twists together the slave narrative, bildungsroman, love story and crime novel to make something new.' -- Emma Donoghue, author of 'Room' 'I usually pick proofs up, read the blurb, maybe read a few pages... and that is usually that. This time, I started reading it - and then I couldn't stop. Sara Collins has created a tough, fiery, vividly alive character. Beautifully written, in crisp and careful prose; but more than that, it comes across as a story that's been waiting to be written for a very long time...[Collins] has picked up the tradition of gothic fiction and made it brand new.' -- Stef Penney, author of 'The Tenderness of Wolves' With echoes of Jean Rhys's Wide Sargasso Sea and Sara Waters's The Paying Guests, this is an accomplished debut novel that perfectly captures the atmosphere of Georgian London and gives voice to a singular and unforgettable heroine - Red Magazine

Bold and powerful - The Sunday Times

An impressive debut, dazzlingly original - The Times

A seductive and entrancing read, with captivating historical detail...The Confessions of Frannie Langton is an extremely powerful book that resonates long after the final page has been turned. -- Laura Carlin, author of 'The Wicked Cometh' Frannie Langton is an unforgettable heroine, one who boldly reclaims her narrative within the context of a history that seeks to silence her. The Confessions of Fannie Langton is gorgeous-Gothic writing at its very best -- Christine Mangan, author of 'Tangerine' Wide Sargasso Sea meets Beloved meets Alias Grace . . . deep-diving, elegant A bold and timely reinvention of the classic gothic novel ( . . .) which, with its tentative exploration of passion and transgression of boundaries, is reminiscent of the best of Sarah Waters - Observer

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9780241984017
Publication date: 01/08/2019
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780241349199
Publication date: 04/04/2019
Publisher: Viking an imprint of Penguin Books Ltd
Format: Hardback

About Sara Collins

Sara Collins is of Jamaican descent and worked as a lawyer for seventeen years in Cayman, before admitting that what she really wanted to do was write novels. She studied Creative Writing at Cambridge University, winning the 2015 Michael Holroyd Prize, and began to write a book inspired by the idea of 'writing a Gothic novel where the heroine looked like me'. This turned into her first novel, The Confessions of Frannie Langton.

More About Sara Collins

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