How do you chose one book to read from so many that contemporary authors have written set in the Victorian era?
What attributes should the book – and the author – that you chose have to make them stand out in a crowded field?
When I was invited to join a blog tour to celebrate the publication of ‘The Confessions of Fanny Langton’ I wanted to ponder those questions, because they are questions that this book can give wonderfully positive answers.
The author, Sara Collins, clearly knows and loves the period and its literature; and she adds something new and distinctive of her own, something that wouldn’t be found in a novel from the period.
When I wrote about her novel, a few weeks ago, I said:
Sara Collins writes so well. The cast of characters is wonderful, and each and every one of them has different aspects – nobody is there simply to play a part, they are all fully realised human beings who have pasts – and hopefully futures. That cast is deployed well in an engaging plot, and interesting questions are explored along the way. The atmosphere is wonderful, allowing the characters and the story to live and breathe, the prose is gorgeous and Frannie’s voice rings true.
(The rest of my thoughts are here.)
But I want you to read the author’s words, because when I read her letter to her readers I was absolutely certain that I had picked up the right book.
On the small Caribbean island where I grew up, I re-read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice, trying to imagine windswept moors, drawing rooms draped in silk and sighing women, and men dashing about on horses – corrupting or taming or rescuing.
My own word stretched to coconut trees and white sand. Nothing from it ever made an appearance in those pages. At some point their came a realisation that those books I loved didn’t quite love me back. And that left questions in their wake.
Why couldn’t a Jamaican former slave be the star of her own gothic romance? Why couldn’t she be complicated, ambiguous, complex? Why had no one like that ever had a love story like those? Questions like that are the pinch that turns reader to writer, and so I found myself wanting to chronicle the twisted affections between a mutalla maid and her white mistress. A story that is among other things a tribute to Jane Eyre, but with a protagonist who would have lived outside the margins set by history. Or, rather, like Jane Eyre – if Jane had been given as a gift to ‘the finest mind in all England’, and then accused of cuckolding and murdering him.
My glad bag is bursting, as Jamaicans would say, that you’re about to read it. That we might, somewhere in the pages, catch sight of each other.