Book of Holloway Prison experiences is Sunday Times bestseller

Vanessa Frake, an author, stands in front of a purple shop: "Angela Reed"

After a 27-year career in the prison service, Vanessa Frake now bakes at Angela Reed. Photo: Will Durrant - Credit: Archant

A former Holloway Prison governor behind a bestselling book says she found opening up helped her come to terms with her experiences. 

Vanessa Frake’s memoir ‘The Governor’ entered The Sunday Times top 10 upon its release in April.

It recounts her 27 years of service - which also included time at Wormwood Scrubs Prison.

Having been exposed to trauma, violence, and riots as part of her job, Vanessa learned to ‘not let upset ruin’ her day.

But when she left the service in 2013, she felt something close to post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Vanessa, who lived for years in Islington before moving to Saffron Walden, in Essex, in 2014, said: “When I tell anyone what I did, they all say the same thing: ‘You must have some great stories to tell’. 

“I started in the prison service in 1986, and doing 27 years is more than a life sentence. A lot of things happened and I put them away for a rainy day. 

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“The prison service can be great in asking if you are okay. I dealt with things at the time, but to lose the structure when I left was hard. Talking about it has helped process what happened.”

Ghost written by Ruth Kelly - who met Vanessa "by chance" and pleaded for the chance to tell the story - the book was heralded in the tabloid press as an expose on famous inmates such as Myra Hindley, Rose West, and Pete Doherty.

But Vanessa does not want to dwell on celebrity gossip and believes the book shines a light on the good that goes on inside prisons and how lives can be transformed. 

Vanessa, who now works as a baker, said: "We rarely talk about the rehabilitation side of things, the people whose lives we saved.” 

She added: “When Ruth approached me, I said no. But she persisted and I am glad that we did it. 

“I was blown away by the reviews of the book. It sounds extraordinary, but it was my life and I did not think it was anything special.

“The reaction has been unbelievable. People have said the book has really helped them.”

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