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The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9780349702377

Price: £9.99

ON SALE: 5th October 2023

Genre: Fiction & Related Items / Historical Fiction

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‘A great storyteller and a fabulous actor. Well done, sir!’ DAVID HAREWOOD

‘Phenomenal! Highly recommended.’ MALORIE BLACKMAN

‘An absolutely thrilling, throat-catching wonder of a historical novel. Hugely recommended.’ STEPHEN FRY

For fans of The Miniaturist and The Confessions of Frannie Langton comes this award-winning novel of illuminating historical fiction.

Meet Charles Ignatius Sancho: his extraordinary story, hidden for three hundred years, is about to be told.

I had little right to live, born on a slave ship where my parents both died. But I survived, and indeed, you might say I did more…

It’s 1746 and Georgian London is not a safe place for a young Black man, especially one who has escaped slavery. After the twinkling lights in the Fleet Street coffee shops are blown out and the great houses have closed their doors for the night, Sancho must dodge slave catchers and worse. The man he hoped would help – a kindly duke who taught him to write – is dying. Sancho is desperate and utterly alone.

So how does Charles Ignatius Sancho meet the King, write and play highly acclaimed music, become the first Black person to vote in Britain and lead the fight to end slavery?

It’s time for him to tell his story, one that begins on a tempestuous Atlantic Ocean, and ends at the very centre of London life. And through it all, he must ask: born amongst death, how much can you achieve in one short life?

“Utterly infectious.” – The Times

The Times


An absolutely thrilling, throat-catching wonder of a historical novel. I read with alternating fascination, dread, hilarity, admiration, sorrow and triumph for a full life rendered with such animation, brilliance and understanding. Told in wonderful prose and with dazzling energy and brilliant panache. Hugely recommended
Stephen Fry
By far and away the funniest, cleverest, most profoundly satisfying book I've read this year. This one's going to win prizes or I'll eat a shoe.
Natasha Pulley
Elegant, moving and vital, that this book is the product of a deep interest and long study of one man's life and times is evident. But what Paterson Joseph does - what every writer of historical fiction yearns to do - is make history fall away so that in every moment we are immersed in a lived life. A stunning debut.
Jess Kidd
With his intriguing novel The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho, Paterson Joseph has fully inhabited the important eighteenth-century figure of Sancho. Taking the known facts of Sancho's life as a slave-born man who became known to both the black and white communities of London, from nobility to working class, Joseph breathes vivid life into the first black man to cast a vote in the England, but whose family ranked higher in his heart than any others in his life. The novel sings with the words of a man who survives his struggles, and expresses himself through music, language, and love.
Gretchen Gerzina
I so admire Joseph's verbal imagination which seems to effortlessly bridge the gap between our time and Sancho's. In a huge, warm, real voice, Joseph makes us look at a past world from another perspective. It's terrific.
Harriet Walter
An absolute masterpiece of a debut. Both brutal and brilliant, this is a novel that gets right under your skin - historical fiction at its best!
Susan Stokes-Chapman, bestselling author of Pandora
I love the man. He is a genius, The Secret Diaries are groundbreaking and beautiful, as is the author for whom this is a lifelong passion. Climb into this glass bottomed boat, for the time of your life as you float into the mind of Ignatius Sancho. Bravo Paterson Joseph you genius: More Secret Diaries please.
Lemn Sissay
This is a compelling account of a fascinating life, written with adventure, wit and flair. Charles Ignatius Sancho has properly come to life in these pages.
Jeffrey Boakye
I hugely enjoyed it! The voice is stunning, I loved the whole project of creating this literary portrait capturing the peaks and valleys of a vastly varied life - and I loved, too, how he really brought Charles Ignatius Sancho to life as such a three-dimensional, flawed person. I feel very lucky to have been able to read it six months early, and will be recommending it to everyone I know!
Naomi Ishiguro
Absolutely loving this . . . A great storyteller and a fabulous actor. Well done, sir!
David Harewood
Powerful, searing, thrilling, important, this brilliant book of sympathetic imagination takes us into the heart and soul of the courage and spirit of Ignatius Sancho. Gripping, painful, it is both the story of one man and a continent, a story of stolen lives and shocking cruelty, a whole world told through a life. Paterson Joseph brilliantly brings the eighteenth century, the man and his the world to life and tells a story that will hold fast to your heart and not let go.
Kate Williams
This is a stunner. Beautifully written, and thoroughly engaging. An immersive tale set in Georgian England. A compelling page turner.
Julie Owen Moylan
A brilliant fever dream of whirling images . . . thought-provoking, enjoyable and hugely humbling within the first page
Cambridge Edition
The story he unearthed is extraordinary
Daily Telegraph
A spry, likeable gambol through 18th-century Georgian London...Joseph's enthusiasm for his subject makes for a breezy, appealing read
Literary Review
The care and research shine through in every chapter. This is a tragicomedy of the first order, and not to be missed.
Natasha Pulley, Guardian
His fictional account of a real man's life resonates with compassion and offers a welcome insight into the presence of Black people in Georgian England.
Paterson Joseph pulls off a terrific act of literary ventriloquism with his debut novel... Joseph's novel, a love letter to a forgotten extraordinary man, fits neatly into the move to unearth and dust off the many forgotten histories of black Britons throughout history, yet it's also a work of storytelling that consistently fizzes with narrative invention. Joseph might have just found himself a new career.
A super talented actor but an even better writer
Dan Snow
Joseph has a real feel for the strangeness of the past, and never forgets these are not merely 21st-century people in wigs and pantaloons.
Financial Times
Paterson Joseph elegantly inhabits the real-life character of abolitionist, musician and servant Charles Ignatius Sanch. . . an impressive debut
Irish Daily Mail
This is a wonderful debut by Joseph, whose enthusiasm for his character is utterly infectious. Do give up the acting day job and write more novels.
The Times, Book of the Month
Excellent. . . Joseph creates a wonderfully convincing voice for his character. . . Joseph makes ingenious use of a variety of narrative techniques (diaries and letters between Sancho and his fiancée) to tell the tale of a black man determined to find his place in a world hostile to his ambitions.
The Sunday Times
[A] bold debut novel
BBC History Magazine
Joseph has written a novel of exhilarating verve and freshness with a truly lovable hero at its heart.
Scottish Daily Express
If Sancho was "roly-poly" in life, he has become fully rounded in fiction, a memorable character and voice, whose adventures are harrowing, comedic and inspirational by turn . . . With the conjuring tricks of historical fiction, Joseph has taken an actual man and, two and a half centuries later, made him as thoroughly himself, and as fully present, as he was the first time round.
Thomas Mallon, New York Times
A work of exhilarating verve with a lovable hero at its heart.
Jake Kerridge, Sunday Express