11 July 2019, The Tablet

Kidnapped: Laura Cumming's family memoir with a dark riddle at its heart


Kidnapped: Laura Cumming's family memoir with a dark riddle at its heart

Searching for answers to a near-century-old beach mystery
Photo: Unsplash, Lenart Lipovšek

 

On Chapel Sands: My Mother and Other Missing Persons
LAURA CUMMING
(CHATTO & WINDUS, 320 PP, £16.99)
Tablet bookshop price £15.29 • Tel 020 7799 4064

It is the stuff of nightmares. The ­summer might technically be nearly over, but the afternoon is calm and warm. So there you are, peacefully sitting on a vast, empty beach while your toddler potters ­cheerfully about with her bucket and spade. For a second, you are distracted, and when next you look for her she has disappeared. There are her sandals, there is her spade, but the little girl has vanished.

This happened in 1929, and Laura Cumming’s mother, Betty, was the missing three-year-old. For five terrifying days, her frantic parents searched, until eventually, 12 miles away, she was found safe and well. Order was restored; the little girl grew up and became an accomplished artist; she married and had children. Now in her nineties, she has no memory of the kidnap.

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