I like books that make me laugh. I love books that make me laugh and cry. Back to Blackbrick by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald, (2013, 200 pages) is in the latter group.
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?
This is a very touching book. It is written in first person from the point of view of a boy named Cosmo. He really loves his family. Cosmo has a distinct voice. He uses great adjectives that a kid, but probably not an adult, would use. He is sarcastic, but not in a cruel way, and often it’s just in his internal monologue. He is a master of understatement.
It wasn’t the best feeling in the world to hear them talking away to each other about how nuts I was.
It’s quite interesting how someone can go from being a loyal, trustworthy grandson to being king of the rats in a relatively short space of time.
The enchanted taxi guy of delight with the brilliant people skills had probably gone ages ago anyway…
I am a big fan of “incomplete” sentences, and Cosmo uses plenty of them such as,
Typical me to get tied up in a situation like this.
I am quoting so heavily because it’s hard to endow a character in a novel with a truly distinct voice, and Fitzgerald has nailed it. In addition to a great voice, the author also created a unique sense of place, and has written a suspenseful plot. As if that weren’t enough, the story addresses important issues such as death, and dementia. If you have lost someone close to you, as I have recently, this passage may make you cry.
Just because you can’t see anyone anymore doesn’t mean they’re not part of you. There are people who are gone and dead and there are even people you have never met, and things about them are buried inside you like golden fossils. It could be a saying or an idea or a habit that you have learned from someone in your family who learned it from someone else. It could be the way you pat someone’s hand when they need to be comforted. Or it could be the dimples in your cheeks that happen when you smile.
My only regret about this book is that it deals with a mature issue. I can’t reveal it without spoiling the plot. The book is recommended for kids age 10-14. My daughter is almost 10, but she is relatively innocent of the evils of the world, and I know this story would bring up many questions that I would feel compelled to answer honestly, perhaps despite my better judgement. So I don’t want her to read it until she gets a little older.