I am delighted to share my review today for The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho by Paterson Joseph. I requested this one from NetGalley after spotting the cover first. This is a fictionalised account of an influential figure from history.
An illuminating and original tale of a Black writer and composer Charles Ignatius Sancho. Recently named as a Great Black Briton and immortalised with a Google Doodle this brilliant story charts the life of the little-known maverick and his life in Regency London in a witty polemic, we have grown to love through many great 18th Century English writers. Candid and characterful, illuminating and illustrious this is a great opportunity to revive the history of an important, engaging historical character to a wide audience.
The life of Charles Ignatio is a remarkable one, born on a slave ship and then sold into slavery before being taken into the care as an orphan. He was given to three sisters and was their pet. A chance meeting with Duke Montague gave him a start in life that benefited him later on. He was taught to read. In the Georgian era of the 1700s, it was not seen as a good thing for Black People to read as they were there to serve not to be educated.
Nevertheless, Charles Ignatius did learn, and it is through his diaries that the author has fictionalised the life of Charles Ignatius Sancho. I didn’t really know anything about this historical figure, but his name had recently cropped up while I was reading another book. As I had a copy of The Secret Diaries of Charles Ignatius Sancho it seemed the right time to pick it up and learn more.
While the author has fictionalised the life of Sancho, he has done research and references back to diaries and some of these have been included in this book. It tells of life starting with nothing and no parents and the conditions he lived in when he was between homes and also how he was perceived by different people at the time.
Sancho had built a reputation without realising it and therefore he would have been different and not just because of his skin colour. This builds up an image of Sancho as he tries to work out where he belongs. He is educated but this is a problem as he is Black, for this would be problematic, for others it made him better than them. As for Sancho he just wanted to live his life and eventually settle down to raise a family. Instead, he found himself in a sort of limbo, an outcast, a curiosity but one that started to make himself known and then worked on a way to be heard. In doing this he h found his vocation.
The author creates an interesting fictional account of this historical figure. It is done in a way that is interesting, but at times I did feel the story dragged a little. What this book did do for me though was introduce me to a historical figure who eventually found his voice and the courage to stand up to slavery. He was the first Black man to vote as at that time he was a man of property, and with the help of other Artists and Authors of the time became an ardent supporter of the Abolition of Slavery.
This is a book that I found really interesting, at times it did feel slow and occasionally repetitive. It is, however, a great starting point for further reading which is exactly what I did after reading this book. If you have an interest in historical figures then this is a good book to read, it tells the fictionalised account of a man born into slavery that then joins the movement to abolish slavery. Informative and interesting and one I would happily recommend.
I discovered more about Charles Ignatius Sancho on various websites. Here is a couple that I found interesting.
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