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Imagine finding 148 handwritten diaries in a skip? What would you do? Would you read them?

Alexander Masters, A life Discarded.

Imagine finding 148 handwritten diaries in a skip? What would you do? Would you read them? Would you want to know the owner? Well this is what happened to Alexander Masters when his friends came across the abandoned books in a skip one day. Alexander Masters, A life Discarded is the story and the mystery of finding the face behind the author.

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The books left Alexander so intrigued he really had to find out who they belonged to and return them to their rightful owner.



I had the pleasure of meeting Alexander Masters at the launch of the paper back with Harper and collins and 4th estate books at the fabulous new building at London Bridge. Once I started reading the book I was completely intrigued and it left me with many questions.



Are people only interested in the diary of famous people?

Alexander was worried that no one would want to read about the diary of an ordinary person.

Diaries are a record of daily lives and information that we may not necessarily even of learnt about a person or a place or a time. If ordinary people didn’t write diaries we would of missed out on so much history.

Take the Dairy of Anne Frank for instance, we would not of learnt her tragic story if she did not write her diary.

When you think about a diary it’s not just a written version of events about that persons day it’s a brutally honest opinion of what’s really going on in ones mind. A hands on day to day account of life as it was at that time for that person.




What is the difference with blogging and a hand written Diary?

When people right diaries they do so for themselves thinking that no one else will be reading it, therefore there is no need to lie or hide the truth. There is no need to beat about the bush or pretend to like someone or be like someone.

When Anne Frank heard a broadcast on the radio by the Dutch Minister for Education, Art, and Science, they were asking for the preservation of “ordinary document, diary, letters and everyday material” to create an archive and testimony of the suffering of civilians during the Nazi occupation. Therefore Anne began to redraft her exerts with future readers in mind by changing  names and editing.

As a blogger it is down to each individual how much honesty is behind words, As a news reporter they are commenting on facts seen or passed on not necessarily actually felt.

A diary is as honest as the person who writes it is honest to themselves.




Should you read someones Diary and innermost thoughts?

I find this very interesting, if someone agrees of course when they are still alive then yes. If a diary is found and family agree or maybe a time limit from which the author has died then yes. Its a fantastic piece of history. A way to remember a person as who they were when they were alive.

Take Jackie Kennedy for instance she did not write a diary but she summoned an interviewer to record her memories on John F Kennedy to remember him as hero. His notes of which some of which were changed were requested by the interviewer not be public until a year after her death.

Jackie clearly wanted people to remember him and her words “it will never be the same again” shows she was also did not want to forget.




How do you find the person behind the diary?

” a person can write a million words about itself and forget to tell you its name or its sex, the only thing I know about the writer is that it was one of  the most prolific diarists in history” Alexander Masters

Alexander realised it would not be easy from the start, how do you find the name to someone that speaks of themselves only and calls everyone in her life by a letter. No name or address inside the front cover no idea as to whom is telling the story.

A life Discarded is a mystery in itself, through lots of research including handwriting experts and lots of reading you are taken on a journey of uncovering the person on the end of the pen.




” A nice day in general just enjoying myself… no particular thoughts, except perhaps to change my life” The diarist,  Friday December the 26th 1958.

It rather intriguing to read someones normal thoughts, thier grumbles, what they really think of certain people and thier outlook on the world.



“Hope, Dreams A life Discarded” Alexander masters

Reading the book is like watching a detective mystery unfold. Who left the books in the skip? Who was the author? Are they still alive?

Reading clips of the diary throughout and seeing how the diarist changes over the years is fascinating. I believe all diaries should be saved and so do the people of the The great diary project

The great diary project has been set up to provide a permanent home for unwanted diaries of any date or kind.  The collection now contains over 4000 diaries, The catalogue’s contents is freely available to researchers and interested readers, who can consult the originals in Bishopsgate Institute reading room. if someone donates a diary they and do not wish it to be read as they are worried about the contents or maybe embarrassed they can sign a consent to ask that it not be read for a certain amount of years.


To find out who the face behind the diarist was I can throughly recommend reading Alexander Masters, A life Discarded




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Alexander Masters, A life Discarded




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  1. Hi Donna, now you have me thinking. I do not keep a private diary, I suppose my blog is my diary, but it’s hardly a day to day thing and I honestly wouldn’t dream of snooping in another person’s diary, but what if I found them in a skip? Then I probably would, even if only to try and track down the owner so as to return the diaries. The most interesting diaries have to be the ones written by ordinary people during extraordinary times, like The Diaries Of Anne Frank.


    1. Hi Debbie, yes it is strange isn’t, many ordinary people have very interesting lives. I think I would love to delve more in to people’s minds via their diarys. Thanks for visiting x

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