Sometimes a story can come along at exactly the right time. It can mirror something that is happening in your own life and really strike a chord with you. Back to Black Brick is a story about a grandfather who has Alzheimer’s Disease and his grandson, Cosmo, who tries everything he can to stop him losing his memory. My nan has early stage dementia so I can completely understand how Cosmo feels. Cosmo, however, does something that I can’t do – he travels back in time to meet his grandfather as a young man.
Cosmo’s brother Brian died when he was ten years old. His mum hides her grief 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?
Back to Black Brick is a captivating story about families, the secrets that they keep, and the pain they hold inside. Sarah Moore Fitzgerald wraps this all up with plenty of mystery, a dash of history, and time travel. It’s a time-slip story but quite different from similar stories I’ve read. When time travel is involved the characters generally have to think about how their actions in the past will affect the future, but Cosmo does everything he can to try and change the future. He wants to try and stop his grandfather’s memory from fading when he’s older, so he tells him about things that he’ll need to remember for later in life.
As soon as I heard Cosmo’s voice I knew I would really like this character. Cosmo is a loner who has been affected by the death of his brother, the abandonment of his mother, and his grandfather’s worsening condition. From the first few paragraphs you know how much Cosmo loves and admires his grandfather. He wants to do everything he possibly can to help stop his grandfather losing his memory and would hate for him to have to go into a home. So when Cosmo gets the chance to meet his grandfather as a young man he believes this is his chance to change the future and make things right.
There were several things that I really loved about Back to Black Brick. I thought the characters were very well developed and you felt like you were part of their gang. I especially liked the way that you could see the personality traits mirrored in both the young and old version of Cosmo’s grandfather, Kevin (like the ‘Ah, fantastic’ when he’d drink tea). The other thing that I loved about the story is the way that Sarah explains how the time travel happened and the way that Cosmo’s visit to the past affected the future. I like the way that this explanation rounds off the story but still leaves you with a sense of mystery.
4 out of 5 stars