It’s finally time for Charles Ignatius Sancho to tell his story, one that begins on a slave ship in the Atlantic and ends at the very center of London life. . . . A lush and immersive tale of adventure, artistry, romance, and freedom set in eighteenth-century England and based on a true story
It’s 1746 and Georgian London is not a safe place for a young Black man. Charles Ignatius Sancho must dodge slave catchers and worse, and his main ally—a kindly duke who taught him to write—is dying. Sancho is desperate and utterly alone. So how does the same 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? Through every moment of this rich, exuberant tale, Sancho forges ahead to see how much he can achieve in one short life: “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.”
About the Author
Paterson Joseph is an award-winning actor who has been fascinated by Sancho for many years. He wrote and starred in the play Sancho: An Act of Remembrance in 2018, which was staged in the UK as well as the US. A veteran of the stage, TV, and film, Paterson has appeared on The Mosquito Coast, an Apple TV+ original series; Doctor Who; Noughts + Crosses; and other BBC programs. The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho is his first novel.
Winner of the Royal Society of Literature’s Christopher Bland prize
Longlisted for 2023 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction
Jhalak Prize 2023 Shortlist
“A winning first novel. . . . 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 Book Review
“It’s a tough task for a writer to set themselves, but the care and research shine through in every chapter. This is a tragicomedy of the first order, and not to be missed.“
“Add this fictionalized account of a real Black British trailblazer to your pile of necessary historical fiction.“
“Joseph channels the writing style of the day and draws on the real-life Sancho’s diaries to give voice to his hero’s rich interior life. Readers shouldn’t miss this exhilarating and rewarding account of a man living at the cusp of world change.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
"[T]he rollicking fictionalized memoirs of a real-life Black British trailblazer . . . An entertaining portrait that also illuminates rare opportunities for Black people in 18th-century London."
“Paterson Joseph’s Sancho is a joy to read as much for the riveting and full portrait of a historical figure’s interior life as for the page-turning tale. Joseph navigates this wonderfully entertaining story with intelligence and verve. The real Sancho composed a life of music and service; Joseph renders his life as art.”
—Brendan Slocumb, author of The Violin Conspiracy and Symphony of Secrets
“Paterson Joseph's The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho is a needed perspective of historical Black excellence on English soil. Witty and insightful, the novel is a critical perspective of what it means to want more and to become a master of one's destiny. Joseph gives life to the times, the politics, the friendships, and all aspects of a fully realized man, Ignatius Sancho. Crafted with care, respect, and the resolve to edu-tainment, Paterson Joseph does not disappoint in penning the story of a dignified man whose ascendency from enslaved to a wholly free British man needs to be known.”
—Vanessa Riley, award-winning author of Island Queen and Queen of Exiles
“An absolutely thrilling, throat-catching wonder of a historical novel. In The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho, Paterson has given us a character for the ages. It’s hard to overpraise this achievement. You might read it for its evocation of an age or for its depiction of the cultures, attitudes, and race all colliding in ‘Enlightenment’ England, but whatever you bring to the book, the book will bring to you adventure, romance, and the full flowering of a magnificent literary hero, all told in wonderful prose and with dazzling energy and brilliant panache. Hugely recommended.”
—Stephen Fry, actor, comedian, director, and writer
”A rollicking picaresque and one hell of a good read.”
—Book Culture newsletter
"[A] spry, likeable gambol through 18th-century Georgian London."