The Confessions of Frannie Langton
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?
Author: Sara Collins | Publisher: HarperCollins
“What are my own intentions in writing this? The simple answer is that it’s my life, and I want to assemble the pieces of it myself. Mr Defoe made a novel and a romance out of the adventures of a felon and a whore, so it must be possible that of my own life I could do the same.”
It’s been a week since I finished this book, and I’m still reeling from it. The Confessions of Frannie Langtonis heartbreaking, moving, enraging, surprising, and much more. It addresses so many different issues — race, class, slavery, mental health, substance abuse, same-gender relationships, feminism. It’s the July pick for Girls’ Night In’s book club, and I don’t even know where we’ll start the discussion.
The story is told by Frannie, who is in jail and accused of the gruesome murder of her former “employers.” She’s penning an account of her life, from her childhood as a house girl in Jamaica to her adolescence as a scribe for her slave master to her position as a maid in London, where she fell passionately in love with her mistress.
Frannie was taught to read, write, and speak formally as a child, partly as an enraging experiment in non-white intelligence. She read novels and served as a scribe. This helped her become fiercely independent and given her a strong sense of self. All that, plus her experiences with race, class, and slavery, result in an account of her life that is biting, poignant, and well crafted.
“But only a man would think splitting a baby in two was a solution rather than a problem, just like only a white man would consider slavery a difficult question. Women focus on what they lack, men on 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.”
The characters in this book, especially the women, are complex and surprising. The toxicity of the way people treat each other and act in relationships hurts. Also, you will fall in love with Frannie, and your heart will break for her throughout the book. Each revelation she provides — some surprising, some expected yet still devastating — drops like a bomb.
I’m grateful for books like this because as a person who has a lot of privilege, they help me see glimpses into the experiences of others where I don’t have the history to empathize.
I really just can’t say enough how weighty and important and moving this book was. I think you should read it.