BOOK REVIEWS, HISTORICAL FICTION

THE CONFESSIONS OF FRANNIE LANGTON BY SARA COLLINS

THE CONFESSIONS OF FRANNIE LANGTON
BY SARA COLLINS

Title: The Confessions of Frannie Langton
Author: Sara Collins
Publisher: Harper – May 21, 2019…….375 Pages

FROM THE BACK COVER
No one knows the worst thing they’re capable of until they do it . . .
“All of London is abuzz with the scandalous case of Frannie Langton, who is accused of the brutal double murder of her employers, renowned scientist George Benham and his eccentric French wife, Marguerite. Crowds pack the courtroom, eagerly following every twist, while the newspapers print lurid theories about the killings and the mysterious woman being held in the Old Bailey.

The testimonies against Frannie are damning. She is a seductress, a witch, a master manipulator, a whore. Frannie claims she cannot recall what happened that fateful evening, or how she came to be covered in the victims’ blood, even if remembering could save her life.

But she does have a tale to tell: a story of her childhood on a Jamaican plantation, her apprenticeship under a debauched scientist who stretched all bounds of ethics, and the events that brought her into the Benhams’ London home—and into a passionate and forbidden relationship.
Though her testimony may seal her conviction, the truth will unmask the perpetrators of crimes far beyond murder and indict the whole of English society itself.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton is a breathtaking debut, a murder mystery that travels across the Atlantic and through the darkest channels of history. A brilliant, searing depiction of race, class, and oppression that penetrates the skin and sears the soul, it is the story of a woman of her own making in a world that would see her unmade.”

THE STORY

The book opens at Newcastle Prison in London, England, where Frannie Langton is on trial for the premeditated murders of her Master and Mistress, George and Marguerite Benham. She faces the death penalty. Frannie maintains she has no memory of the incident.

Frannie has been taught to read and write by Langton in order that she could help him with his scientific “experiments”. She was educated, which was rare for a woman of color in that day and age. She longed to write; and, while awaiting her fate in prison she wrote her memoir.
Frannie begins her memoir from her childhood in Jamaica to her arrival in London. She chronicles her years as a slave in Jamaica and the “scientific” atrocities she was forced to be witness and participate in while she was there. Langton, her master in Jamaica, was working with another very well known and respected scientist. They were working on the same project. I shall not, at this point, reveal the subject of these experiments. I will let you read this book if you have a mind to. Trust me when I say, they are macabre & frankly sickening.

Langton subsequently offers to gift Frannie to the more well-known scientist, Benham and they travel to London. Upon arriving, Frannie works as a servant under the supervision of the house manager, who hates her. However, shortly after arriving, she has caught the eye of Marguerite Benham, Meg as her friends refer to her and becomes Meg’s lady maid. The two of them become extremely close friends much to the chagrin of the house manager and the Master George Benham. Frannie tends to Meg’s every need. And I want to stress “every need”.

I’m going to stop here so as not to post any spoilers. Anymore detail would be an injustice to future readers of this magnificent book It’s a must-read book and you will not be disappointed.

MY THOUGHTS

This wonderful book not only addresses the subject of slavery in both Jamaica and England, but also it brought to my mind the prejudice that is still in existence today targeting anyone who is “different”.

I was born and reared in Louisiana. I now reside in Arizona. I am also of the advanced age that I remember segregation very well. Not only in our schools but on public transportation. They had to go to the back of the bus. Also at the lunch counters, restrooms and water fountains. The list goes on and on. I had children that I did my best to dissuade from that kind of attitude in which I was saturated as a child. I think I did a pretty good job. Those children now have children of their own who have also been taught that prejudice is wrong and will not be tolerated.

Far be it for me to suggest that this attitude does not exist today. Sadly, it does. We can only hope that through education and the instruction of tolerance, we have hope for a better tomorrow.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sara Collins is of Jamaican descent. She studied law at the London School of Economics and worked as a lawyer for seventeen years before doing a Master of Studies in Creative Writing at Cambridge University, where she was the recipient of the 2015 Michael Holroyd Prize for Creative Writing. She lives in London, England. The Confessions of Frannie Langton is her debut novel, and was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Prize.

HISTORICAL FICTION

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

John Boyne never fails to blow me away.  Anything he writes is phenomenal.  This book was no exception.  I doubt that I can come anywhere close to describing how much I enjoyed this book, but I will try. 

Meet Cyril Avery.  He is the illegitimate son born to a teenager in Dublin, Ireland.  She is shamed by the entire village where she resides.  Thrown out of her parents’ house and shunned by the entire community, Cyril is put up for adoption.  Charles, an extremely wealthy good-for-nothing except chasing women, adopts Cyril.  Charles’ wife, Maud is a reclusive novelist whose greatest fear is writing a book that is successful thereby bringing attention is brought to her.  His adoptive father, Charles, basically ignores Cyril except when he is reminding him that he is adopted.  Not a true member of the family. 

Charles has an attorney who has a son that befriends Cyril at the age of seven.  Julian Woodbead is also seven, but is much worldlier than Cyril.  Cyril and Julian are lifetime friends. 

The book follows Cyril from his birth and moves in intervals several years apart through his life.  It was thought provoking for me and reminded me that everyone at one time or the other in their lives pretend to be someone they are not.  Most of the time they do this because of  self-loathing or fear. 

This book brought many emotions for me.  I felt pain, loss religion, and prejudice among several others.   Simply put, John Boyne never fails me.  He is one author that I always look to when I want a good book where the characters are developed and the descriptions are vivid. 

If you have not read The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne, you have missed a great read. I’ve read several really good books in 2019, but this one remains my favorite.

About the Author 

John Boyne was born in Ireland in 1971 and is the author of seven novels for adults and three for children. The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas won two Irish Book Awards, was shortlisted for the British Book Award, reached no.1 on the New York Times Bestseller List and was made into an award-winning Miramax feature film. His novels are published in over 45 languages. He lives in Dublin.