Tag: Sara Collins

The Confessions of Frannie Langton

by Sara Collins

ISBN 978-0-06-285189-5

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this title from the publisher.

 “But this is a story of love, not just murder, though I know that’s not the kind of story you’re expecting. In truth, no one expects any kind of story from a woman like me. No doubt you think this will be one of those slave histories, all sugared over with misery and despair. But who’d want to read one of those?”

Frances Langton was born on a sugar estate in Jamaica, the property of a depraved scientist who gave her his name, and educated her for his own ends. But The Confessions of Frannie Langton is the story of Frances’ free life in London, and how she came to be accused of murdering her employers, George and Marguerite Benham, to whom she was given by her former master, though in London she is technically free. The Mulatta Murderess is a broadsheet sensation, the talk of London, the boogieman in the Old Bailey, but Frannie is a woman determined to tell her own story, and to be seen as a real person, one who loved and was loved, and paid a terrible price for daring to reach above her station.

The frame narrative finds the former slave known as Frances Langton in her cell at Newgate prison, furtively scribbling her “confessions” to her lawyer, whom she addresses as “you.” The lawyer has begged her to give him something—anything—that will help him in his defense of her, for to this point she has maintained that she remembers nothing of the night the Benhams were murdered. But Frances has her own ideas about the story she wants to tell, and she will not pander to the judge, the jury, or anyone else. Newspaper clippings, court transcriptions, and extracts from the diary of George Benham are interspersed between her chapters so that we see Frances largely through her own eyes, but occasionally catch glimpses of how she was seen by those around her.

By far the strongest feature of the novel is Frances’ voice. She is an avid reader, and that love of language seeps into her own writing, colouring her descriptions and insights. She is a keen observer, though she often deludes herself in the matter of love, losing sight of that which would normally be obvious to her keen intellect. “Sometimes I picture all that reading and writing as something packed inside me. Dangerous as gunpowder. Where has it got me, in the end?” she laments. She wants to be seen, but every time she reveals her true self, she is forcibly reminded that “there are many who find an educated black more threatening than a savage one.”

Frances consciously writes back against the slave narrative, the formulaic accounts peddled by abolitionists and anti-slavers to further their cause. “What no one will admit about the anti-slavers is that they’ve all got a slaver’s appetite for misery, even if they want to do different things with it,” she warns. Collins nods to the real slave narratives of the period, naming one of the characters Olaudah, in reference to Olaudah Equiano, and Frances takes her name from Francis Barber. But Frannie is determined to write her own story on her own terms, even if “most publishers can’t see past their noses. Probably not far enough to see a woman like me.” She spends little time on her slave upbringing in Jamaica, focusing instead on her fate after her owner brought her to London and turned her over to fellow scientist George Benham. But it is Mrs. Benham who becomes the centre of Frannie’s world, bright and shining, but also eccentric and troubled, descending further into laudanum addiction every day.

Although framed by a murder mystery, the novel is, at heart, a tragic gothic romance. Frannie’s greatest defense also condemns her. “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,” she opens the book. And it is here her heart remains throughout the story, leading towards the inevitable tragedy, and final revelation of her trial.

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ALA Midwinter Fiction Preview

At the end of January, I had the chance to attend two days of the American Library Association’s Midwinter conference in Seattle. I had a great time attending panels, meeting up with book blog and librarian friends, and browsing the exhibits.  As usual, publishers were spotlighting some of their upcoming titles. Here are a few that I am excited about!

Umarriageable by Soniah Kamal

Cover image for Unmarriageable by Soniah KamalIf you love a Pride and Prejudice retelling as much as I do, you will be equally excited to check out Unmarrigeable, a modern day, Pakistani revisitation of Jane Austen’s classic. Alys, the second of five daughters,  teaches English literature at a girl’s school, to pupils who often drop out to marry and start having children. Literature is her small chance to influence them before they begin that chapter of their lives. Her small town is set atwitter by a big wedding, which brings several eligible bachelors, including the wealthy entrepreneur Mr. Bingla, and his aloof friend, Mr. Darsee. I didn’t want to leave you only with titles that aren’t out yet, so this one is already available from Ballantine Books!

The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton

Cover image for The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton I knew that the publisher was going to be promoting Dhonielle Clayton’s follow up to The Belles at ALA, but I figured that it would be so popular I would probably miss out. So I was surprised but pleased to pick up an advance copy of The Everlasting Rose, which will follow Camille, Edel, and Remy as they try to save the rightful heir to the throne before her evil sister, Princess Sophia, can cement her rule of Orleans. To succeed, they will need to join forces with the Iron Ladies, a group of women that totally reject the beauty treatments that Orleans society is built upon. The revolution is here. Coming March 5, 2019 from Freeform.

Star Wars: Queen’s Shadow by E. K. Johnston

Cover image for Star Wars: Queen's Shadow by E. K. Johnston When Padmé Naberrie completes her term as Queen of Naboo, she faces the daunting task of building a new life for herself, out from under the long shadow of the throne. Instead, she will find herself in deep political waters, when her successor asks her to serve as Naboo’s representative in the Galactic Senate. Despite her uncertainty, Padmé  agrees to her Queen’s request, and takes up the challenge. To be honest, that cover alone was enough to pull me in, but I am excited to see E. K. Johnston, author Exit, Pursued by a Bear, take us on Padmé’s journey from Queen to Senator. Coming March 5, 2019 from Disney Lucasfilm Press.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

Cover image for The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara CollinsOne of the great benefits of going to ALA is getting to talk to the publicists, and find out what they are hyped about. When asked which fiction title she was excited for, one of the Harper reps said “this one!” with such speed and certainty, that I took it without further question. The Confessions of Frannie Langton follows the trial of a former Jamaica sugar plantation slave accused of murdering the man who enslaved her, and his wife. Frannie herself claims to remember nothing about the night of their deaths. The novel is already garnering comparisons to the work of Esi Edugyan and Colson Whitehead.  It is set to hit shelves on May 21, 2019.

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

Cover image for Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby RiveraJuliet Palante has just come home to the Bronx from her first year at college, and she is trying to figure out how to come out to her Puerto Rican family before she moves across the country for a summer internship. She will be spending the summer working for Harlowe Brisbane, author of Raging Flower, the book that sparked Juliet’s feminist awakening. But when she arrives in Portland, Juliet quickly feels out of her depth. The longer she is in Portland, the less sure Juliet is about Harlowe’s brand of feminism. But the summer nevertheless introduces her to people and experiences that will open her mind in ways she never expected. Originally published by Riverdale Avenue Books in 2016, I noted at the time I reviewed it that the book could have used another editorial pass, and a little more polish and attention. So I am excited to see that Patrice Caldwell at Hyperion has picked it up for re-release in the fall of 2019! I can’t wait to see this book get another chance to shine. Look for it September 10, 2019.

Did you have a chance to attend ALA? What forthcoming titles are you excited about? Let me know in the comments!