Review: The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (2019)


‘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?

A beautiful and haunting tale about one woman’s fight to tell her story, The Confessions of Frannie Langton leads you through laudanum-laced dressing rooms and dark-as-night back alleys, into the enthralling heart of Georgian London.


I’ve read some fantastic historical fiction recently, confirming that it really is my favourite genre. Lots of people recommended The Confessions of Frannie Langton when I asked what I should read next. They were absolutely right – I LOVED it.

There are so many elements that make this a brilliant read. I love a book where the first person narration has a strong purpose, and here, Frannie is setting down her record not to clear her name, but to tell her story and work out what happened. This means that we’re right alongside her as she pieces together her history and the events that led to the night of the murders, and it’s a thrilling position to be in as a reader. Frannie herself is a compelling protagonist; although at first it seems she is at the (lack of) mercy of her fate, she is far from passive, forging her own path in myriad ways, living and loving fiercely, able to see the world in a much more clear-sighted manner than many of the other characters.

As well as fascinating characters, Frannie Langton has a propulsive plot – Sara Collins is extremely talented at knowing when to withhold and when to reveal key information, balancing the mysteries and the revelations with consummate skill. Like Frannie, Collins is first and foremost a storyteller, and what a story it is. With so many layers of narrative at play, a lesser writer might struggle to balance them all, but here, it works beautifully, the shocks coming with just enough subtle foreshadowing to be completely cohesive and believable.

I could probably wax lyrical about this book for pages – I’ve yet to mention the sharp, vivid prose, full of startling metaphors and similes that feel fresh and new, or the many other engaging characters, such as Madame, Phibbah, and Laddie, who are drawn with multi-faceted complexity – but there’s a danger I’ll bore you all with my enthusiasm, so I’ll stop here. All I’ll say is that if you’re a fan of historical fiction along the lines of Alias Grace or Washington Black, and you haven’t read The Confessions of Frannie Langton yet, you’re missing out. Get on the case – you won’t regret it!

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins is published by Penguin and is available to purchase here.


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