Back To Blackbrick by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
Published: Orion Children’s Books, 7 February 2013
Length: 228 pages (paperback)
Where Did I Get It?: Borrowed Liberty‘s ARC for review, pre-publication
Summary (from Goodreads):
Cosmo’s brother Brian died when he was ten years old. His mum hides her grief by working all the hours God sends and Cosmo lives with his grandparents. They’ve been carefree days as Granddad buys him a horse called John and teaches him all he knows about horses. But the good times have to come to an end and although he doesn’t want to admit it, Cosmo knows his Granddad is losing his mind. So on one of the rare occasions when Granddad seems to recognise him, Cosmo is bemused that he gives him a key to Blackbrick Abbey and urges him to go there. Cosmo shrugs it off, but gradually Blackbrick draws him in…
Cosmo arrives there, scared and lonely, and is dropped off at the crumbling gates of a huge house. As he goes in, the gates close, and when he turns to look, they’re rusty and padlocked as if they haven’t been opened in years. Cosmo finds himself face to face with his grandfather as a young man, and questions begin to form in his mind: can Cosmo change the course of his family’s future?
My graddad was pretty much the cleverest person I ever met so it was strange in the end to see the way people treated him – as if he was a complete moron.
Back to Blackbrick is a magnificently clever book that was both heart warming and heart breaking in the same breath, and the cover is beautiful.
Alzheimer’s disease is something that affects an awful lot of people and is difficult for the people around them to deal with and Blackbrick handles this with a sensitive touch and a twist of fantasy.
Cosmo, the narrator of the story, hasn’t had the easiest of starts in life – his brother died when he was ten and his mother has vanished to another country to ‘work’, leaving him to live with his grandparents. The development of his Grandfather’s Alzheimer’s is the final straw and Cosmo refuses to accept it. At first he does what any young teenager would do when faced with a problem he doesn’t know how to fix – he asks the internet and believes every word he reads.
It is touchingly funny as Cosmo does his best to follow the instructions on a ‘Memory Cure’ website and you can’t help but chuckle at the outcomes of his endeavours (such as sticking post-it notes to everything so his Grandfather won’t forget what they are called).
Then the book takes an almost fantastical turn as Cosmo follows a bizarre instruction from his Grandfather – to take an old key and visit Blackbrick Abbey, via the South Gates. Doing as he’s told leads Cosmo into a place he’d never dreamed of – his Grandfather’s childhood.
I loved the magic of this story, the relationship between Cosmo and his young Grandfather in Blackbrick was brilliantly funny as Cosmo struggled to try and shape the future without letting on everything he knew and making himself look like a lunatic.
Sensitively handling everything from Alzheimer’s through to death and childbirth, Back to Blackbrick manages to balance comedy and tragedy perfectly and had me crying and laughing in equal measure.
The only problem I had with this book was that for the first few chapters I managed to convince myself that Cosmo was a girl. I’m not sure what triggered this but I was really confused when I realised I was wrong and it threw me for a few pages. By half way through though I had completely forgotten my previous confusion and it didn’t detract from the story at all.
My rating: 5/5*