By Alanna Warwick-Smith
Grand Cayman is abuzz about “The Confessions of Frannie Langton,” the debut novel by Caymanian Sara Collins.
Set in 19th-century London, this Gothic mystery chronicles the trial of a former slave for committing two murders she cannot remember.
Frannie Langton is a reluctant protagonist and her own storyteller as she recounts the tale of her Jamaican childhood, life as a slave and the journey that brought her to London and her eventual prison cell.
The cruelty Frannie experienced throughout her life has defined her — a mulatto woman living in a time of undefined acceptance, not being able to find a home with either race and having to create her own definition of who she is. Readers are given an uncomfortable front-row seat to the treatment experienced by a black woman, a black slave, in the 19th century.
Collins has opened the door and invited Frannie Langton into a room where the door had previously been closed. She has given voice to a story often told, but often unheard. The introduction of a clever, complex young black Caribbean woman is a distinct parallel to what the Gothic genre has seen in past with the “mad wife in the attic” stereotype introduced in the novel “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë. The book tackles many notable issues and topics such as racism, classism, sexuality, feminism and mental health.
Collins should be applauded for the level of research invested in this novel. So many historical facts are presented in the book that it is, at times, easy to forget it is fiction. It is interesting to note that Collins has a background as a lawyer and Jamaican heritage; you can sense parts of herself have been tucked into the passages for safekeeping, and she has trusted you as the reader to ensure Frannie’s story is heard.
“The Confessions of Frannie Langton” is available in print and online and can be purchased at Books & Books.
This article originally appeared in the September 2019 print edition of Camana Bay Times.