Back to Blackbrick

Written by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald
Review by Ann Turnbull

This beautifully-written time-slip novel explores memory loss, grief and family relationships.  It’s narrated in a lively 21st-century voice by Cosmo, who lives with his grandparents. We learn that Cosmo’s mother has gone to Australia to work and that his brother Brian died in an accident. His grandfather, Kevin, is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, and Cosmo searches the internet trying to find a way to reverse his beloved grandfather’s memory loss.

But Kevin deteriorates, and it seems he will have to go into a care home. At this critical moment, he gives Cosmo a key. He tells his grandson he must open the gates of Blackbrick Abbey with it and promises that he will be waiting for him there, on the other side of the gates. Cosmo goes – and finds himself in the past, face to face with 16-year-old Kevin, who is working at Blackbrick as a stable boy during World War II.

The events that follow involve love, loss, and the birth of a child. Cosmo plays a part in his own grandfather’s past, and eventually this helps the whole family to reach a place of understanding and acceptance.

Despite the sad subject matter, this is not at all a gloomy book. Cosmo’s narrative voice and his reactions to the adults around him make sure of that. The story is involving and kept me reading. There is a powerful sense of the rural past – particularly the hard work, the uncomfortable beds, and the cold. I liked the respect for the work done by the young employees at Blackbrick and for their real intelligence and skill – even though they could neither read nor write and could not see much use for such things. The character of Kevin – so confident, brave and determined – is particularly well developed.

Recommended for readers of 12 and over.