black slavery

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The Confessions Of Frannie Langton – Sara Collins

Published April 15, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

‘A book of heart, soul and guts…beautifully written, lushly evocative, and righteously furious. Frannie might be a 19th century character, but she is also a heroine for our times’Elizabeth Day

‘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 seductive and entrancing read, with captivating historical detail…The Confessions of Frannie Langton is an extremely powerful book that resonates long after the final page has been turned’ Laura Carlin, the author of The Wicked Cometh

‘I loved it…Not only a good read but an important book, reminding us of both how far the world has come and how little it has changed. I was gripped, amused, and saddened. I ate Sara Collins’ words up as though they were the sugar, or laudanum, that she writes about so evocatively. It’s a glory of a book’Stephanie Butland

What did I think?:

This review comes with an enormous thank you to Ellie Hudson at Viking Books UK who very kindly sent me a copy of this astonishing debut novel in exchange for an honest review. I had seen a bit of buzz around this book for a little while now, especially from the people I follow over on Instagram and once my attention is captured in that way, it’s hard to rest until I find out what all the fuss is about for myself. It’s even more satisfying as a reader when all that hype is completely worth it and you read a book that is so captivating that you’re just grateful for the opportunity to have picked it up. The Confessions Of Frannie Langton is a fascinating historical treat which follows a young woman from Jamaica that intrigues you from the very first chapter and is the sort of novel that gets under your skin, digging its heels in until you’ve finished the final page.

Sara Collins, author of debut novel The Confessions Of Frannie Langton.

The devastation of slavery and how it affects the individuals who are enslaved, the slave-owners who harbour ridiculous beliefs and their unbelievable feelings of entitlement and the first rumblings of anti-slavery are all brought vividly to life through the power of Sara Collins’ writing. It provides us with unforgettable characters like Frannie who possesses such a convoluted personal history filled with grief, heart-break and horrific decisions. She never feels as if she belongs in a specific area or with a particular group of people purely because of the colour of her skin and because she is raised in a very experimental way i.e. to be educated to the same level as a 19th century “white” person. As a result, individuals of both races treat her with derision and suspicion, believing she is not “one of them,” or that she believes herself above her station in life.

Coupled with this, Frannie has had some hideous experiences at her first home in Jamaica, enslaved and put to work as an assistant for Mr Langton in order to investigate some of his personal theories. It is because of the events that occur in her home country that leads to her arriving in England and being placed in the home of the Benham’s. This concurrently marks another huge turning point in her life which brings us to the present time period where the reader first meets her, being tried in a court of law. From this moment, we go back in time and hear Frannie’s incredible story and begin to learn about the instances in her past that have brought her to such a dangerous reckoning.

The Old Bailey courthouse, London, 1897 as it would have looked when our character, Frannie Langton stood trial. 

Image from: https://www.oldbaileyonline.org/static/The-old-bailey.jsp

This was such an interesting read and as I mentioned earlier, I found myself gripped by it from the very beginning, mainly because we meet Frannie at such a pivotal moment in her life and as a reader, I just wanted to know everything that preceded it. Little did I know, the trial at The Old Bailey was not the only defining moment of Frannie’s young life and the novel explores all the uglier (and occasionally happy moments) of her story in full, glorious detail. She is an unreliable narrator at the beginning, mainly because she has no recollection of the immediate events that led to her trial but ever so slowly, things start to make sense and become slightly clearer. Nevertheless, the author keeps us on tenterhooks until the very end before revealing all the dastardly goings-on of the night in question.

This novel is luminous in the way it approaches the historical elements of the narrative and oozing with atmosphere that made me feel as if I was walking the exact same paths as Frannie herself. There were some tough moments too and I loved that Sara Collins was not afraid to explore the dark side of that particular time period, especially with slavery and the perspectives on the black community. It felt gritty, realistic, disturbing and important and I’m so excited to see what she’ll write next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

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Kindred – Octavia E. Butler

Published November 4, 2014 by bibliobeth

60931

What’s it all about?:

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

What did I think?:

I’ve only recently started reading more science fiction as I didn’t consider it a genre I was particularly interested in. However, I have been pleasantly surprised from the recent books I have read and this is no exception. Many thanks to the lovely people at Book Bridgr and Headline Publishing for allowing me to read a copy and although I have never come across the author’s work before, I am now eager to try some more. The story is set across two main time frames – the current, contemporary period (1970’s) and 19th century Maryland where our main character is a young black woman called Dana. When celebrating her birthday with her husband Kevin all of a sudden she is transported back to the South at the height of the slavery period, obviously a very dangerous time for a black woman to be on her own. First of all however, she must find out why she has travelled back in time in the first place. It appears that whenever the son (Rufus) of a rich plantation owner is in danger, Dana materialises and she deduces that she must be travelling back in order to save his life.

Dana’s first trip back in time where she saves Rufus as a young boy lasts merely minutes but with each subsequent journey her stay in the South becomes longer. This heightens the danger that she is in as being a young black woman without an obvious white owner may lead to her being beaten, raped, even killed. Rufus himself is not a particularly likeable character as he grows up and takes on the mantle of his terrifying father and although he grows close to Dana with every visit, there is a risk that he may become just as much of an adversary to her. In the contemporary time, Dana’s husband Kevin is also desperately worried about the effects of her time travel, especially when she comes home with injuries having run into the path of the wrong (white) man. He is determined to be with her the next time she leaves, even if they both have to be careful regarding the particulars of their relationship as he happens to be white. He manages to time travel back with her successfully but cannot reach her side quickly enough (they have to be touching) for the return journey home leaving him stranded in the past, his only hope of return being Dana coming back. Attempting to guess when Dana will next return is highly unpredictable and when she does, her life is increasingly at risk to a point where the likelihood of her FUTURE self even being born is becoming more and more unlikely.

As a science fiction novel, I thought this was a good addition to the genre. I enjoyed the parts set in the 19th century South better than the contemporary story as I felt the latter felt a little thin and under-developed. As historical fiction it is beautifully written and captures perfectly the voices of all black people kept as slaves in a dark and shameful part of our history. I found that some characters were drawn better than others, for example Rufus, whom I ended up despising by the end of the novel was a fantastic “love-to-hate” character compared to Kevin, Dana’s husband and the “goodie” of the story who just felt a bit wishy-washy and slightly two-dimensional. However, the novel was exciting and intriguing enough to keep me turning the pages and I would definitely try something else from this author.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art