The Confessions of Frannie Langton

The Confessions of Frannie Langton

A servant and former slave is accused of murdering her employer and his wife in this astonishing historical thriller that moves from a Jamaican sugar plantation to the fetid streets of Georgian London—a remarkable literary debut with echoes of Alias Grace, The Underground Railroad, and The Paying Guests.All of London is abuzz with the scandalous case of Frannie Langton, ac...

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Title:The Confessions of Frannie Langton
Author:Sara Collins
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Edition Language:English

The Confessions of Frannie Langton Reviews

  • Aga Durka

    4.5 Stars rounded up to 5⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

    The Mulatta Murderess, as people of London call Frannie Langton, is on trial for a murder of Mr. and Mrs. Bunham. The reader gets to know Frannie’s past and the circumstances that led her inside of 1820s England’s courtroom through Frannie’s confessions, which she writes to her lawyer. She leads us on a painful, horrifying, and truly unnerving journey of her life, from living as a house-girl on a Jamaican plantation to her life in London, as a “secretary” to Meg Bun

    4.5 Stars rounded up to 5⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    The Mulatta Murderess, as people of London call Frannie Langton, is on trial for a murder of Mr. and Mrs. Bunham. The reader gets to know Frannie’s past and the circumstances that led her inside of 1820s England’s courtroom through Frannie’s confessions, which she writes to her lawyer. She leads us on a painful, horrifying, and truly unnerving journey of her life, from living as a house-girl on a Jamaican plantation to her life in London, as a “secretary” to Meg Bunham. We get to know Frannie as a proud, headstrong, and courageous individual who in the end is just looking for someone to love her and for a place to belong to. Her turbulent relationships, first with John Langton, the plantation owner, and later with Meg Bunham, show how truly disturbed and lost Frannie is. Her character is an unusual one due to her complexity and many layers that she slowly sheds when facing all the spine-chilling events in her life. Anger, sadness, addiction, loss, love, frustration, disappointment, need of belonging, and hope are all the things that lead Frannie into the horrid circumstances she finds herself in, but most of all, it is her inability to set herself free from all the devious and calculating people in her life that finally pushes her toward committing truly horrifying and despicable act.

    This novel has everything: history, drama, mystery, legal and moral issues, slavery, science, murder, physical and mental abuse, and even romance. There are so many layers to this beautiful story, and the writing is truly exquisite. It is definitely a new kind of story for me, and I enjoyed every single moment of it. I think Frannie is and will be one of my favorite characters in 2019, and she will stay with me for a quite some time.

    Thank you NetGalley, Harper Collins, and the author, Sara Collins for giving me an opportunity to read this beautiful story in exchange for my honest opinion.

  • Will Byrnes

    London, 1826. We know that George and Marguerite Benham are dead. We know that their mulatta Jamaica servant, Frannie Langton, has been charged with two counts of murder and is facing tri

    London, 1826. We know that George and Marguerite Benham are dead. We know that their mulatta Jamaica servant, Frannie Langton, has been charged with two counts of murder and is facing trial at the Old Bailey. We know that Frannie was reputed to have had a particularly intimate relationship with the Missus. And we know that Frannie was found asleep in Mrs. Benham’s bed when her mistress’s bloody body was found. We know that Frannie has refused to speak in her own defense. What we do not know is what really happened. Frannie herself can only recall parts of it. From her cell, she writes her story for her barrister, her

    - image from Harper

    This is not the sort of

    that deals in things supernatural, although it does deal in unspeakable abominations. There is, of course, darkness aplenty, solely in the consideration of the degradation of slavery, unadorned. The depths to which some might go to rationalize their positions in this peculiar institution adds a level of awfulness. There is no need for spectres or phantasms when the realities are so grim. But there is plenty of mystery and suspense. Overwrought emotion is also on full display, with Frannie having plenty of reasons to be concerned about her safety, and Marguerite adding a similar set of worries. Distress? Persistent. And you have your choice of powerful, tyrannical males making life miserable, with Langton in Jamaica and Benham in London. No secret passageways, sorry.

    Frannie recalls her days as a slave in Jamaica, her upbringing under the guidance of the maternal Phibbah, a source of wisdom and advice, and a nifty substitute for the usual gothic omens and portents. When young Frannie shows an interest in books, Mis-bella, the lady of the house (or cane plantation) teaches her to read. When his usual set of extra hands becomes unavailable, Langton uses her as an assistant for his work in

    . Cue thunder and lightning. The building is shrouded in mystery. We know only that Langton is engaged in scientific (well, probably not, as his work involved, at least, phrenology) experiments there, and Frannie helps with record-keeping and we know not what else. We know that the experiments have to do with race, and that, whatever he is up to, Langton has lost the support of his main sponsor. So, nicely ticking most of the gothic boxes.

    Two women face the bindings of different forms of subjugation, the placing of heavy weights on their spirits until, it is expected, all hope will be crushed. But is it not wonderful thing for a Jamaican slave to be brought to London where she becomes a lady’s maid? And is it not a boon for a young high-spirited French emigre of modest means to be married to one of the shining scientific lights of the age? Well, maybe not, if either wants to retain dominion over her own thoughts and interests. One of the great strengths of this novel is how powerfully it portrays the parallels between slavery and women’s role in marriage in the Georgian era.

    Frannie and Marguerite’s relationship offers the romantic element of the novel. It is riveting while not particularly graphic, and is more effective for that.

    Collins makes regular use of literary references, particularly Gothic litrefs to underscore the themes of the book.

    , widely recognized as the first gothic novel, is mentioned, highlighting Frannie’s perilous state.

    comes in for a mention as well.

    Will Frannie, like Frankenstein’s monster, turn on her maker? Her interest in reading certainly parallels the big guy’s, as does her loneliness. Like him, she wants to learn, grow intellectually, be accepted. Non gothic writings are referenced as well. Repeated mentions of

    alert us to the fact that sometimes you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do to stay alive in this world, Newgate Prison offering another link between Frannie and Moll. Voltaire’s

    comes in for multiple mentions as well, no doubt a reminder to keep unwarranted optimism at bay.

    Particular attention is paid to

    and the question of

    the surface.

    I expect the mind can manage a wider range, but Frannie’s memory is definitely fragile as to the events leading up to her employers’ deaths.

    Langton, seeking to justify his slave-holding, has a particular concern with race, skin color, and where the outward appearances may or may not manifest below the skin. It is eminently clear that the respectability worn on the outside by many bears little resemblance to the corruption beneath. Frannie’s education and intelligence are invisible to any who see only her profession(s) and outward appearance.

    All is craft alone, however magnificently written, in the absence of characters we can care about (and in some instances boo and hiss at) Fear not. You will love Frannie. She is as lovingly developed a lead as you could possibly hope for, rich with history, introspection, courage, smarts, and passion. You may find yourself, over the course of the book thinking, “If this girl killed those people, they surely must have had it coming.” Marguerite is also beautifully drawn. Although a much less appealing person than Frannie, she is a bright light in a dark place, also attempting to find her way through a life in which she is not allowed be her true self.

    This is one of the best novels I have read this year. Not only does it address the timeless subject of slavery, it does so in a way that points out that it was not only black people who were treated as objects. The parallel between Frannie and Marguerite is magnificently realized, making us see the chains that hold them both, and see how they struggle or succumb, pointing both to a common fate. Not having been around in 1826, (I just

    that old) I could not say if the presentation of the time was real or not, but it certainly felt real from this perch in the 21st C. Collins has a remarkable gift for language that is as sweet as the subject matter is sour. (I was wearing out my ancient fingers transcribing quotes from the book, only a few of which have found their way into this review.) It is entertaining and riveting. The reveals are satisfying, the twists effective.

    , one of the best books of 2019, is a magnificent achievement. YOU MUST READ THIS!!!

    Review posted – May 17, 2019

    Publication date – May 21, 2019

    =============================

    Links to the author’s

    ,

    and

    pages

    -----Harper Books-

    - Collins talks about loving period fiction and wanting to see a black character in a gothic romance

    -----Foyles -

    -----

    - On books that inspired her

    -----

    by Horace Walpole

    -----

    by Mary Shelley – on Gutenberg – This novella is mentioned in the book, but it was not actually published until 1959, so the characters are unlikely to have had access to it.

    -----

    by Daniel Defoe

    -----

    by Voltaire

  • Elyse Walters

    “Noir fiction is a literary genre closely related to hardboiled genre, with distinction that the protagonist is not a detective, but instead either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. Other common characteristics include a self destructive protagonist”.

    Frannie Langton, (mulatta, house-girl on a sugar plantation in Jamaica to a bought slave, ‘Abigail’/Secretary....in 1820’s, London)....

    fits the *noir’ description to a ‘t’.

    She’s accused of murdering her employers, George Benham and his wife M

    “Noir fiction is a literary genre closely related to hardboiled genre, with distinction that the protagonist is not a detective, but instead either a victim, a suspect, or a perpetrator. Other common characteristics include a self destructive protagonist”.

    Frannie Langton, (mulatta, house-girl on a sugar plantation in Jamaica to a bought slave, ‘Abigail’/Secretary....in 1820’s, London)....

    fits the *noir’ description to a ‘t’.

    She’s accused of murdering her employers, George Benham and his wife Marguerite.....

    a victim, a suspect, a perpetrator....and at times is self destructive.

    We love the many layers of Frannie Langton... (literate, strong-like-bull-courageous - doubtful - angry - witty)....

    but cards are stacked against her. Frannie was a a slave. She was black/mulatta. She was a woman. She loved a privileged white woman. She was accused of a double murder.

    LIFE COULD NOT BE MORE IMPOSSIBLY DEVASTATING....

    Freedom, power, and dignity stripped away from birth.

    An unfathomable horrific life ahead....

    Frannie’s salvation to suffering was reading and love.

    Seriously- if there was ever an antidote to suffering....

    ‘love & reading’ was the best ‘soul-surviving’ way to quietly experience joy within bleak circumstances.....

    Reading - and then love - was Frannie’s greatest self-medicating-gift.

    Sara Collins packs a punch ....

    Noir, historical fiction, gothic, murder thriller mystery, horrific science inquiry-experiment to examine black inferiority- slavery, race, class, women, drug addiction, prejudice, arrogance, righteousness, sadness, grief, frustration, confusion, anger, guilt, injustice, intrigue, courage, lies, forbidden relations, romance, passion, love, desire, adultery, sex,

    a courtroom trial in London, with journal entries, testimonies from witnesses,

    and a gripping ‘life’ confession - not just what happened the night of the brutal murders - but a full-life-story from

    Frannie Langton written to her lawyer representative.

    I mean...WOW!!! This is a debut?/!!!!!!

    Captivated from the start to the end... a few sluggish challenges for me in the middle section slowed down my reading -

    but....

    I’ve been obsessively thinking about this novel for a couple of days...

    ( had several conversations with my husband)...

    I’ve only read one other review of this novel so far.

    All I remember was that Bonnie was blown away!!

    Well... me too!!!

    The WRITING is gorgeous- thought provoking fascinating - with good and evil characters.

    Frannie writes:

    “My mind races. It’s my own self I’m trying to outrun.

    When I reach inside, there’s nothing. That trick, somewhere between remembering and forgetting - the only refuge I have left”.

    Frannie writes ( about Meg.. Marguerite/Madame of the house in London)....

    “We were happy, no matter what is said about it now, no matter that they’re saying it was me who broke her happiness, and broke her. As soon as I write that, as soon as I even think it, my hand trembles. I must stop here. I fear I’ll dig this nib through that paper, to keep from turning it on myself”.

    In the 1820’s....

    “Every black in London was either a maid or a whore or a prizefighter”.

    George Benham speaking:

    “Women focus on what they lack, men and what they want. In all those Bible stories, it’s always the women who look back, who eat the forbidden fruit, who weep over hollow wombs, and fruitful ones. Yearning is always a woman’s sin”. The men never turn around, nor ever think twice about taking a knife - or a cross- to their own longed-for-sons”.

    It was men like George... that had Frannie’s anger rise. We can feel the gut- wrenching hostility Frannie feels for that wicked man...

    something she shares in common with Meg Beham/his wife.

    “I was angry, yes”.

    “The real madness would have been if I had not been angry”.

    Great descriptions:

    “Flashes of silk, among the black suits, like oil on water. Ladies in their dresses, gentlemen in their tails. Here were people the world tells us to admire. I pictured their tinkling laughter choked off by the fear of being whipped, like dogs.

    Standing in the kind of heat that closes your throat, glancing up at a sun that might kill”.

    Books were Frannie’s companion. She was grateful she could learn ‘something’ no matter how she came to do so.

    “It was a way to know that lives could ‘change’, that they could be filled with adventures.! There were times I pretended I was a lady in a novel or a romance myself. It might sound foolish. But it made me feel a part of a world that otherwise I can never belong to.”

    Guilt, feelings of unworthiness, and anger were ‘tied-emotions’ Frannie lived with. At times she was her own worse enemy.

    “I felt myself tipping forward, my throat clogged with anger, thick and dry as cotton. I let it swell inside. I welcomed it. Into the silence tipped the truth: my anger was aimed at ‘myself’”.

    ....Atmospheric novel!

    ....Monster Slave owners...

    ....A very different kind of slavery story....

    ....First person narrative...

    ....Thrilling mystery....

    ....Frannie is a character worth remembering. Fact is - she is hard to forget.

    4.5 stars!

  • Maureen

    London, circa 1820, and servant Frannie Langton is on trial accused of murdering her Master and Mistress. The problem is that she can’t remember anything about that fateful night, however, she can’t believe that she’d murder her mistress, she loved her too much to hurt her, didn’t she?

    Frannie has come a long way since her days as a slave on the sugar plantation in Jamaica, not just in terms of geographical distance but in terms of her life’s journey too. This complex character wears many labels

    London, circa 1820, and servant Frannie Langton is on trial accused of murdering her Master and Mistress. The problem is that she can’t remember anything about that fateful night, however, she can’t believe that she’d murder her mistress, she loved her too much to hurt her, didn’t she?

    Frannie has come a long way since her days as a slave on the sugar plantation in Jamaica, not just in terms of geographical distance but in terms of her life’s journey too. This complex character wears many labels - slave, servant, Lady’s companion, whore, addict, and now murderess! For a former slave, Frannie definitely bucks the trend, not only being able to read and write, but being blessed with a sharp and inquisitive mind too.

    Incarcerated in Newgate prison awaiting trial, Frannie passes the days writing her life story, and it’s here that we’re transported back to the sultry heat of Jamaica and the cruelty that is part and parcel of a sugar plantation before the abolition of slavery, and it has to be said that Frannie plays her part in this cruelty too! What a massive change awaited her in London, not only the cold damp weather and notorious fogs that created an ethereal world of murk and mystery, but she had to acclimatise to a whole new culture that was literally a world away from her former life.

    This is a well written historical whodunnit that brings early 19th century London deliciously to life. The characters were quite complex, none more so than Frannie. She’s many women in one form. The narrative (though slow at times) was compelling - playing on one’s curiosity to discover where this journey was going and more importantly who was responsible for the murders. Murders that place Frannie Langton very much in the frame. But did she do it or did she not? My lips are sealed!

    *Thanks to Netgalley and Penguin books UK, Viking for my ARC. I have given an honest unbiased review in exchange *

  • Dannii Elle

    Damn, Sara Collins can write! For a book that exuded so much sadness this was also imbued with such an overarching beauty that made its parallel stand out, in stark contrast, and made the events that unfurled all the more poignant for it.

    This is, as the title suggests, fictional Frannie Langton's autobiography of her life. She begins her tale in sun-ripened Jamaica, as a slave on a sugar plantation, and ends it in rain-soaked London, on trial for the murder of her employers. The reader is invite

    Damn, Sara Collins can write! For a book that exuded so much sadness this was also imbued with such an overarching beauty that made its parallel stand out, in stark contrast, and made the events that unfurled all the more poignant for it.

    This is, as the title suggests, fictional Frannie Langton's autobiography of her life. She begins her tale in sun-ripened Jamaica, as a slave on a sugar plantation, and ends it in rain-soaked London, on trial for the murder of her employers. The reader is invited to bear witness to all the events in between, and her treatment at the hands of all those who saw a black-skinned Jamacain in the 19th century as nothing more than a possession.

    Whilst the ultimate mystery was at the heart of the narrative, the gentle unravelling of one woman's life, as she sought to prove her innocence and tell her own story, was where the prowess of this book stemmed from. And every part was of equal interest, despite the fact that all were steeped with the same heartbreak and mistreatment. Not for one moment did Collins allow the reader to overlook the harsh life of this one fictional character, whose story bears such a similar resemblance to so many others.

  • Linda

    You can never be free of the inner workings of your mind. It travels well within those tiny crevices no matter the miles.

    Sara Collins sets her story down among the fields of Plantation Paradise in Jamaica in 1825. Don't be misled. This is hardly a paradise. The owners see to that at every turn. John Langton and his wife, Miss Bella, run their plantation with an iron fist. Miss Bella is ill-suited for life in Jamaica. The intense heat, the random storms, and the complete isolation will spark her

    You can never be free of the inner workings of your mind. It travels well within those tiny crevices no matter the miles.

    Sara Collins sets her story down among the fields of Plantation Paradise in Jamaica in 1825. Don't be misled. This is hardly a paradise. The owners see to that at every turn. John Langton and his wife, Miss Bella, run their plantation with an iron fist. Miss Bella is ill-suited for life in Jamaica. The intense heat, the random storms, and the complete isolation will spark her temper and shorten her patience. Nothing seems to be worthy of her time. Not even her husband.

    But John Langton bides his time in unseemly endeavors. How unseemly? You're about to find out.

    We will meet Frannie, a young mulatto girl, who will soon leave the hard work of the sugar cane fields to enter into the inner workings of the household. It's here that Frannie will be enlightened by Phibbah who cautions her into following the set rules. Frannie has no idea of how demanding her new position will be. Out of curiosity and boredom, Miss Bella will teach Frannie how to read even though it is against the law. Frannie begins to stitch small stolen books into the hem of her dresses. Reading becomes a form of escape.

    After a fire badly burns the sugar cane fields, John Langton decides to take Frannie to London with him. She follows behind him in the crowded streets imagining how easily she could get lost among the people and never be seen again. Langton takes her to the home of a scientific writer, George Benham and his young wife, Marguerite. Langton makes a quick exit leaving Frannie in the hands of the tight-lipped housekeeper. She's to become the property of Benham. Shocked and disillusioned, Frannie must face her fate.

    Sara Collins will switch gears with a trial taking place involving Frannie. The bodies of George and Marguerite Benham have been found stabbed to death in their home. Frannie has been arrested and sent to prison waiting for the eventual outcome of the trial. Is she capable of such a heinous act? How does this young woman from Jamaica prove her innocence?

    The Confessions of Frannie Langton contains some heavy-duty subject matter. But then life on a plantation was also brutal in its nature. Frannie finds that life in civilized London is not so civilized either. The writing is detailed and well-researched. Collins gives nothing away until the last pages. Frannie will be a character that you won't soon forget.

    I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Harper Collins and to Sara Collins for the opportunity.

  • Fran

    April, 1826. The gallery at the Old Bailey was filled to overflowing with "quality folk" and "ordinary folk" there to witness the trial of Frances Langton, indicted for the willful murder of George and Marguerite Benham. Frannie's owner George, was found stabbed to death in the library while wife Marguerite, was discovered in her bedchamber. Frannie was soundly asleep next to Madame's body. Frannie's hands and shirt sleeves were covered in blood.

    Frannie had refused or was unable to discuss what

    April, 1826. The gallery at the Old Bailey was filled to overflowing with "quality folk" and "ordinary folk" there to witness the trial of Frances Langton, indicted for the willful murder of George and Marguerite Benham. Frannie's owner George, was found stabbed to death in the library while wife Marguerite, was discovered in her bedchamber. Frannie was soundly asleep next to Madame's body. Frannie's hands and shirt sleeves were covered in blood.

    Frannie had refused or was unable to discuss what happened that night. Defense lawyer, John Pettigrew, suggested that she explain herself using paper and quill. "My intentions in writing my jailhouse musings, ...it's my life, I want to assemble the pieces of it myself". "For every crime there are two stories, and that an Old Bailey trial is the story of the crime, not the story of the prisoner. That story is the one only I can tell".

    Frances Langton was born in Paradise, Jamaica. She worked in the lower field "throwing dung into cane holes" until age seven when she became a house-girl for Miss-bella Langton. Sitting by the water one day, Frannie accidently knocked Miss-bella's book into the water. The punishment, the book must be dry before she would be allowed to come indoors. At first, she thought the letters in the book were "trapped, each shackled to the next one", but reading would become her salvation. There were those who believed that slaves, as property, should not be exposed to new ideas.

    Master Langton manipulated Frannie's love of reading for his own means. Langton and Benham were rivals studying anatomy but both proposed to "...compile a survey of the natural mental endowments of each race of men..." As a reader and writer, Frannie "scribed" for Langton and was eventually forced to start participating in the performance of other duties.

    One day, Langton took Frannie to Levenhall, the London residence of George Benham. She was given as a "gift" to Benham. Under-maid Prudence "...feared I'd howl, bare my teeth...it's all savagery where you come from..." Housekeeper, Mrs. Linux resenting Frannie's presence told her to be quiet, no shirking and no thieving. In Levenhall, Frannie experienced intense love and raging hate. A good servant must know her place, but book learning created a modicum of freedom for her.

    "The Confessions of Frannie Langton" by Sara Collins displayed the haunting, devastating life of Frances Langton, as written by Frannie herself, in Newgate Prison awaiting trial in Old Bailey. Through Frannie's account, we learn of the ghastly experiments performed to determine the intellect of slaves, assuming their inability to learn. We learn of the co-dependency of Frannie and Marguerite Benham. Court testimony conjures up a "snapshot" of how the prosecution viewed the suspect. Is Frannie aka the "Mulatta Murderess", so named by the press, guilty of a double murder? Read it and find out! I highly recommend this debut historical mystery by Sara Collins.

    Thank you HarperCollins Publishers and Net Galley for the opportunity to read and review "The Confessions of Frannie Langton".

  • Ova - Excuse My Reading

    I think the premise of the book is brilliant- a former slave girl, educated, brought to London, more intellectual than the "free white folk", determined, not bent, headstrong. And I was so excited when I read in the beginning of the novel, that this will not be a slave's story, which we have read many more times, but it will be a black Jane Eyre, a Jamaican girl's own gothic romance. I was a bit disappointed that it took 15% of the book to go to London, and it did take long to open up the plot,

    I think the premise of the book is brilliant- a former slave girl, educated, brought to London, more intellectual than the "free white folk", determined, not bent, headstrong. And I was so excited when I read in the beginning of the novel, that this will not be a slave's story, which we have read many more times, but it will be a black Jane Eyre, a Jamaican girl's own gothic romance. I was a bit disappointed that it took 15% of the book to go to London, and it did take long to open up the plot, but I loved the ending. I was in between 3 and 4 but settling in 4 stars!

  • Beata

    'The Confessions of Frannie Langton' is an unusual book, some critics call it even a true gothic novel, and it is all due to the protagonist, Frannie, and the fate that led her to the gallows. Her life is brutal ,cruel and tragic, beginning on a plantation called Paradise in the West Indies, where she experiences most horrid treatment and is a witness and a forced party to the cruellest experiments by Paradise owner, but where she is taught to read, which makes her a most unique 'mulatta', and l

    'The Confessions of Frannie Langton' is an unusual book, some critics call it even a true gothic novel, and it is all due to the protagonist, Frannie, and the fate that led her to the gallows. Her life is brutal ,cruel and tragic, beginning on a plantation called Paradise in the West Indies, where she experiences most horrid treatment and is a witness and a forced party to the cruellest experiments by Paradise owner, but where she is taught to read, which makes her a most unique 'mulatta', and later in London, where she is given as a servant ( slavery was illegal by then in Great Britain) to a fashionable Georgian couple in London who are not what they seem to be. Regarding Frannie, she is one of the most disturbing characters I have met recently, which is due to the way she was shaped by her childhood and adolecent years on the plantation, however, I did relate to her through her suffering and dark experience to which she had no say. Her life in London and the spirit of independence and even arrogance is portrayed brilliantly. The novel is written in a form of a confession, which is a deliberate bow towards Rousseau's 'Confessions' which Frannie stumbles upon at the plantation owner’s house, and they are told at a slow pace at the moment when Frannie is already a prisoner and gradually reveal what she would probably like to keep just to herself. This types of narration does generate suspense throughout the whole novel. Apart from the narration, vivid descriptions of the Georgian times, including the trial proceedings, the fate of former slaves, daily drugery of the lowly and even the houses of the ill-repute are exquisite. It was a truly unputdownable read for me.

    *A big thank-you to Sara Collins, Harper Collins Publisher and Netgalley for granting my wish in exchange for my honest review.*

  • Roman Clodia

    The good stuff: Collins shows tremendous skill in giving her characters voices: Phibbah with her Jamaican accent *sounds* completely different from Frannie who teaches herself to speak 'proper' English, and whose speech is peppered with similes that actually work.

    Also the first part of the narrative set on a slave plantation in Jamaica manages to disrupt the story we've heard many times before (yes, slavery is horrific, but the literary representation of it can get repetitive): I had s

    The good stuff: Collins shows tremendous skill in giving her characters voices: Phibbah with her Jamaican accent *sounds* completely different from Frannie who teaches herself to speak 'proper' English, and whose speech is peppered with similes that actually work.

    Also the first part of the narrative set on a slave plantation in Jamaica manages to disrupt the story we've heard many times before (yes, slavery is horrific, but the literary representation of it can get repetitive): I had such high hopes of where this book might take us.

    But then we get to London and Frannie is 'given' to an Englishman and falls into another modern convention of neo-Victorian fiction:

    - the tale increasingly feels like it's lost its way.

    There are so many intriguing aspects of the story that I wanted to know more about:

    . The background, too, of scientific racism is used wonderfully to give both emotional and intellectual heft to Frannie's story.

    So much good stuff here but sadly it's doesn't really come together and there's a whole section in the middle where the story drifts. The frame of the trial and Frannie's final confession feels like a last-minute info dump, tying up too many loose ends far too fast - more information more carefully placed would have paced the story better.

    For all my niggles, Collins has a genuinely fresh voice and huge talent: this feels like a debut but I really look forward to where she goes from here.

    Many thanks to Penguin for an ARC via NetGalley.

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