Five Days Gone: The Mystery of My Mother's Disappearance as a Child

Five Days Gone: The Mystery of My Mother's Disappearance as a Child

Acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of The Vanishing Velazquez Laura Cumming shares the riveting story of her mother’s mysterious kidnapping as a toddler in a small English coastal village—and how that event reverberated through her own family and her art for decades.

In the fall of 1929, when Laura Cumming’s mother was three years old, she was kidnapped from a beach on the Lincolnshire coast of England. There were no screams when she was taken, suggesting the culprit was someone familiar to her, and when she turned up again in a nearby village several days later, she was found in perfect health and happiness. No one was ever accused of a crime. The incident quickly faded from her memory, and her parents never discussed it. To the contrary, they deliberately hid it from her, and she did not learn of it for half a century.

This was not the only secret her parents kept from her. For many years, while raising her in draconian isolation and protectiveness, they also hid the fact that she’d been adopted, and that shortly after the kidnapping, her name was changed from Grace to Betty.

In Five Days Gone, Laura Cumming brilliantly unspools the tale of her mother’s life and unravels the multiple mysteries at its core. Using photographs from the time, historical documents, and works of art, Cumming investigates this case of stolen identity with the toolset of a detective and the unique intimacy of a daughter trying to understand her family’s past and its legacies. Compulsive, vivid, and profoundly touching, Five Days Gone is a masterful blend of memoir and history, an extraordinary personal narrative unlike any other.

Title:Five Days Gone: The Mystery of My Mother's Disappearance as a Child
ISBN:9781501198717
Format Type:

    Five Days Gone: The Mystery of My Mother's Disappearance as a Child Reviews

  • Valerity (Val)

    She started out her life as Grace until she was adopted before age 3, then she was Betty. A name she never liked. Later she called herself Elizabeth. An older couple adopted her at age 3, George and V...

  • Jane

    This account of the uncovering of the past that was hidden to the authorÔÇÖs mother for much of her life has been much lauded, and I can only add to the chorus of praise. I loved the writing, the deli...

  • Laura

    From BBC radio 4 - Book of the week:In her new book, the art critic Laura Cumming unravels the mystery of her mother's disappearance one day in late 1929. Five days went by before she was found unharm...

  • Rebecca

    One for readers of The Hare with Amber Eyes (Edmund de Waal) and Rosie (Rose Tremain): a family memoir whose tone of emotional detachment is in keeping with the mores of the time it writes about. Cumm...

  • Maura Heaphy Dutton

    A fascinating family memoir, intensely moving in the way it captures a lost past.Laura Cummings, as a late-life gift to her beloved mother, has drawn together the threads of the story of her mother's ...

  • Melissa

    I can't grade this down too much for not being what I expected, but it definitely wasn't. From the description and the title, it seems as if it will be a delving into the mystery of Cumming's mother's...

  • Penny

    Enjoyed reading this and it's just about a 4 star book, but the more I think about it the more I'm not sure there's enough of a story here to warrant a full book.The sense of place is beautifully draw...

  • Mairi Byatt

    I have been so moved by this stunning novel, also learnt so much about art, and given me an appreciation I have never known before. I was actually at school with Laura for 12 years and always liked he...

  • Janet Burns

    Enjoying the mystery of Betty in this book but it has been spoilt by the episode where the Grammar school girl, born in 1929, was able to have a polio vaccination, whereas I was born in 1941 and was a...

  • B÷rkur Sigurbj÷rnsson

    The art critic tells the story of her mother almost as if it were a painting. First, the plot is sketched, roughly. Then the details are added little by little, moving back and forth over different pa...