The Brickworks

Written by Lucy Black
Review by Karen Bordonaro

Bricks shape this story. Their creation, formation and transportation provide a narrative structure around which the author deftly hangs her plot. Set primarily in a small town in Ontario in the early 1900s, this story also takes in a Scottish train disaster and wealthy business investors from Buffalo, New York, during its Gilded Age.

The main characters are two Scotsmen, one a brickmaker and the other a civil engineer, who meet in Buffalo and decide to go into business for themselves. What follows are months and months of adventures, challenges, tragedy, and success. The human toll required to set up a new business in an era of innovation with no safety nets is immense, as is the constant worry over financing and failure.

As with the bricks, this story is solid. The characters are believable and sturdy, and the setting is no-frills but not without charm. Hard work is ultimately rewarded, ethical men are rightly admired, and physical hardship brings out camaraderie and respect, all of which are sprinkled with some humor as well.

To be sure, tragedy strikes all, deserving or not, and emotions play out in some heartbreaking ways. This book is a very pleasant read overall, however, and a balm to those of us in need of some respite from what sometimes feels like the unrelenting travails of our more modern world.