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?
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Wed, 22 May 2019 | Review by: Breakaway R
Did Frances Langton commit murder?
It is 1826 and Frances Langton, also known as Ebony Fran and more recently the Mulatta Murderess, is on trial in London for the murder of her master and mistress. Somewhere in her confused mind, she knows that she could not have committed this atrocity. As Frances is shoved into the dock, she cannot but notice the items laid out on the bench – evidence against her. Then she sees it, and her innards twist into a knot as tight as the thing curled up in the jar.
Any crime has two stories – the story of the crime and the story of the prisoner. Frances Langton is given a fresh quill and instructions to explain herself. Instead, she writes her memoirs in an attempt to bring clarity. All Frannie remembers of that night is waking under the suffocation of blood-soaked bedsheets, her mistress lying dead beside her. Perhaps if she starts from the very beginning, in Paradise, and follows the thread of her life, she can make sense of it all. Recollections of the Langton sugar plantation in Jamaica bring memories of Pibbah and Miss-Bella. They were the three women of Paradise. But Paradise was a place of injustice, and Frances knows it is time to confess to the inhumanity committed for Langton’s masterpiece. What she would have done for it to go up in flames, along with the six-hundred and twenty-seven skulls. She had noted each skull in the ledger and to what purpose? Could evidence ever exist that as blackness was passed through sperm, so was the lack of intellect, morality and ambition? And then London, where she thought she would be Langton’s girl, his maid even. Instead, she was tossed aside as compensation for a favour.
The content of this novel is a representation of the injustice of inhumanity in the name of science. Due to the dense thematic quality and the intriguing storyline, I found this a compelling read. Collins writes fluidly, and her imagery and manipulation of language bring the story alive. A superbly written novel that touches on more than one element of the human condition and depicts the suffering of the powerless at the hands of the powerful.
Breakaway Reviewers received a copy of the book to review
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