The Confessions of Frannie Langton has affected me more than I thought it would. Frances Langton, our protagonist, a “mulatta” girl – as she is often referred to as – is charged with the murder of her master and mistress, George Benham and his wife Marguerite Benham. The story starts with the trial of Frannie who is being called The Mulatta Murderess by the press. She is writing her story on advice of her lawyer who has given her some papers, pen and ink to occupy herself while she is imprisoned.
Her story begins with her childhood, while she is a slave at “Paradise”, a Jamaican plantation where she is an reluctant assistant to Langton, who conducts horrific experiments on the slaves. He then gives her away to Benham in the hope of gaining some favour after his wife and her brother turn him out of Paradise.
As her new journey begins, with new kind of chores, Frances finds herself in love with her Madam and from hereon nothing is as simple as it should be. And, suddenly Frannie finds herself implicated for the murders of her master and mistress.
“I never would have done what they say I’ve done, to Madame, because I loved her. Yet they say I must be put to death for it, and they want me to confess. But how can I confess what I don’t believe I’ve done?”
Frances Langton’s story starts with these lines and with this our author, Sara Collins has built a wonderful, moving and engrossing story of a slave who falls in love with her mistress. The fact that she doesn’t “believe” that she has killed them instead of saying that she “has not” killed them is in itself beginning of a most intriguing story.
Slavery, slave trade and macabre of all that used to happen in such estates as Paradise in the name of Science has been intricately woven with the life story of Frannie Langton. Sara Collins uses various shades of gothic novel in this period novel and she is not afraid to write about the grotesque.
Depression, drug addiction and homosexuality are also some of the taboo topics that this wonderful work talks about. The love and attraction between Frances and her Madame are not only central to the plot but is also a reflection upon the dreary nature of society of that time and even now.
In this fast moving novel, the journey we partake with Frannie through Paradise and then London to the gallows where she is being held during her trial, is a memorable one and kudos to the writer for writing such an awesome story. This is one intriguing work and I loved it a lot.
I will not declare the murderer or what the jury decide at the trial, and end with Frannie’s words –
“A man writes to separate himself from the common history. A woman writes to try to join it.”
My rating: 5/5