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On Chapel Sands: My mother and other missing persons (Hardback)
  • On Chapel Sands: My mother and other missing persons (Hardback)
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On Chapel Sands: My mother and other missing persons (Hardback)

(author)
£16.99
Hardback 320 Pages / Published: 04/07/2019
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Waterstones Says

An artist and art critic, Laura Cumming brings a skilled observer’s eye to her investigation into a long-held family mystery that spirals outwards, like the whorls of a shell, from her mother’s unexplained 3-day disappearance as a child on Chapel Sands. Piecing together the clues held in photographs, mementos and personal memories, she starts to unravel a multi-layered, deeply moving story of family and community that is striking and unforgettable. Like the treasures Cumming unearths as she follows the threads of her mother’s story - ordinary objects, telling extraordinary stories – On Chapel Sands is a rare find.

Shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize 2020

Shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize 2019

Uncovering the mystery of her mother's disappearance as a child: Laura Cumming, prize-winning author and art critic, takes a closer look at her family story.

In the autumn of 1929, a small child was kidnapped from a Lincolnshire beach. Five agonising days went by before she was found in a nearby village. The child remembered nothing of these events and nobody ever spoke of them at home.

It was another fifty years before she even learned of the kidnap. The girl became an artist and had a daughter, art writer Laura Cumming. Cumming grew up enthralled by her mother's strange tales of life in a seaside hamlet of the 1930s, and of the secrets and lies perpetuated by a whole community.

So many puzzles remained to be solved. Cumming began with a few criss-crossing lives in this fraction of English coast - the postman, the grocer, the elusive baker - but soon her search spread right out across the globe as she discovered just how many lives were affected by what happened that day on the beach - including her own.

On Chapel Sands is a book of mystery and memoir. Two narratives run through it: the mother's childhood tale; and Cumming's own pursuit of the truth. Humble objects light up the story: a pie dish, a carved box, an old Vick's jar. Letters, tickets, recipe books, even the particular slant of a copperplate hand give vital clues. And pictures of all kinds, from paintings to photographs, open up like doors to the truth.

Above all, Cumming discovers how to look more closely at the family album - with its curious gaps and missing persons - finding crucial answers, captured in plain sight at the click of a shutter.

Publisher: Vintage Publishing
ISBN: 9781784742478
Number of pages: 320
Weight: 518 g
Dimensions: 213 x 153 x 31 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS

‘The real story of the book isn’t how she was taken from Chapel Sands, but what was taken from her: the truth about who her parents were and why she was adopted; the reason a woman approached her in her teens and said: “Your grandmother wants to see you,” when the only grandmother she had known was dead.’ - The Guardian

'A deeply felt, forensic yet ultimately empathetic examination of human motivation and its attendant sorrows, which is as much a social history of the early 20th century as it is a story of one family and its secrets. Her intermeshing of art, time and memory is superlative.' - The Telegraph

‘The book, is a series of revelations, one twist the reader might foresee early on, but most come out of the blue… the book is a love letter to her mother.’ - The Guardian

'On Chapel Sands is much more than a search for truth. It is a moving, many-sided human story of great depth and tenderness, and a revelation of how art enriches life. In short, a masterpiece.’ - The Sunday Times

'An absolute masterpiece. A book bursting with love - love lost and love found, love misunderstood, unsaid and denied. I was spellbound by Laura Cumming's warm, intelligent, searching voice and her intense scrutiny of images to reveal the unexpected and make us think again. I am in complete awe. A beguilingly lovely book - as big as the sea' - Keggie Carew, author of Dadland

'This utterly enthralling family memoir draws you into a mystery from the childhood of the author's mother... spellbinding... [Cumming] has also woven in photographs and artworks, which beautifully illuminate and complement the narrative' - Caroline Sanderson, The Bookseller

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Hardback

“Fascinating Book.”

This is a fascinating story. A true story told by Laura Cumming the author, as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her mother's past.
In 1929 a mother and small child enjoy an afternoon on a beach,... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 50

“A fascinating family mystery”

All families have their stories and Laura Cumming knew that her mother had disappeared for 5 days when she was a young girl. But nobody had ever spoken of the details of her kidnap, who had been responsible or why.... More

Paperback edition
Helpful? Upvote 35

“Intriguing”

This is a fascinating story. The events depicted are built around the real life events of her mother’s early life. It is a slow read and at times disjointed but this reflects the unraveling of this complicated... More

Hardback edition
Helpful? Upvote 32

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