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 Using photographs from the time, historical documents, and works of art, Cumming investigates this case of stolen identity with the toolset of a detective and the unique intimacy of a daughter trying to understand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

  • Beata

    Laura Cumming found the inspiration to write this memoir in a story of a 3-year-old girl who was abducted in 1929 from a beach, and was found safe and sound after five days. This story had a happy end...

  • Diane S ?

    3.5 A mother and daughter search for answers in this unusual memoir. Family, art and the quest for identity are major themes as a set of photographs are the impetus that leads the daughter to try to t...

  • 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...

  • Paul

    This book has its origins and setting in Chapel St Leonards, a village on the Lincolnshire coast. Being a Lincolnshire lad I therefore had to read this. Laura Cummings’s mother was brought up there ...

  • Ingrid

    The author painted a beautiful picture of her mother's life and times. As I pictured this little girl I wish I could have taken her in my arms, she had such a hard life. While reading I realised was n...

  • Jane

    This account of the uncovering of the past that was hidden to the author’s 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...

  • Susan

    This is a moving memoir, by Laura Cumming, about her mother’s early life. Her mother, Elizabeth, was known as Betty as a child, but, before that, she was Grace. She lived in a seaside village, Chape...

  • Olive

    I talk about this book in my video for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction 2019 Shortlist: https://youtu.be/mEmyvi4Y8RQ...

  • 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...

  • Caitlin

    I heard about this book on NPR, and it sounded so compelling that I immediately acquired a copy. There is too much book for the story. I almost immediately guessed the kernel of the story, and althoug...