Book Review – The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

First published, 2019

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The story is set in the early 1800s and tells of the life of Frannie Langton, a house girl from Jamaica, now living in London and accused of murder. Having grown up as a mixed race girl, with no idea of her parentage, Frannie is taught to read by Mr. Langton’s wife, Miss-bella. Miss-bella is a resentful woman who takes on this task largely to mark Frannie out as different.

However, her education having been started, it is continued by Mr. Langton, who teaches her anatomy as he creates his magnum opus, a study on the anatomical and cranial differences between the races. His study leads the two of them into the dangerous world of corpse-looting and vivisection.

When his potential backer loses confidence in the work, Mr. Langton decides the time has come to meet with Mr. Benham in person, and takes Frannie with him, to London, as a gift.

In a new country, with strange weather and people, Frannie is shocked to find herself completely adrift without even the man who has been using her for so long. But as Mr. Benham asks her all manner of questions about the nature of her work in Jamaica, she finds herself inexorably drawn to the exotic, beautiful and eccentric, Madame Benham.

However, as their relationship blossoms and drug-use mixes with dishonesty, it’s only a matter of time before something desperate happens. When the Benhams are found stabbed to death, the educated, non-white girl is the obvious culprit. But in the absence of the love of her life, can Frannie find a way to save her neck?

A complex and lyrical story, I was captivated from start to finish. There were so many beautifully written lines, I found myself highlighting all the way through my kindle.

The writing is so beautiful, in fact, that I found myself rereading sections because I’d got so lost in the words that I missed some of the story.

Because of Frannie’s long experience with reading, and working as Mr. Langton’s scribe, there are a lot of points about the nature of writing which I loved. For example:

“A man writes to separate himself from the common history. A woman writes to try to join it.”
Chapter Six, The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins