Five Days Gone by Laura Cumming

Five Days Gone

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 sh...

Details Five Days Gone

TitleFive Days Gone
Release DateAug 27th, 2019
GenreNonfiction, Autobiography, Memoir, Crime, True Crime, Mystery, Biography

Reviews Five Days Gone

  • 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 Veda Elston. She grew to dislike George, who was controlling and didn’t want her mingling with others in the tiny village. She wasn’t allowed to go out and play with any of the local kids. This story is about the discovery of her strange disappear...
  • 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 delicate unraveling of the mystery, the importance given to images, and the illumination of love between mothers and daughters.On an autumn evening in 1929, three year-old Betty Elston was taken from a Lincolnshire beach. Her mother, Veda, was close at h...
  • 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 unharmed, but she remembered nothing of these events and the silence about what happened remained for fifty years when the circumstances of her kidnap came to light. Laura finds clues in everyday objects and crucially the family photo album, and her search...
  • 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. Cumming’s mother, Betty, was raised by adoptive parents, George and Veda Elston. But in 1929 something strange happened: three-year-old Betty was kidnapped from a beach in Lincolnshire and found five days later. Even stranger: at that time she was know...
  • 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 birth and up-bringing, a story so bizarre and emotionally convoluted that it could easily pass as the outline of a lost novel by Thomas Hardy. Cummings uses one episode from her mother's infancy as the hook to draw her readers in: when Betty was thre...
  • 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 disappearance as a child. And it is...but it also isn't.It's a beautifully written book, a deep look into life in the early 20th century. The mystery does get solved, but not in a way that anyone would have guessed at the time. It involves a lot of ...
  • 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 drawn - I know the area of Lincolnshire described.However, there's an awful lot or repetition and padding. The padding is done by what I can only describe as random art criticism, and whilst it is interesting it isn't really relevant. So, no surprises to...
  • 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 her but never really got to know her - my loss! I could have known one of the most emotive caring and beautiful people on the planet! Please, please read this book.
  • Börkur Sigurbjörnsson
    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 parts of the canvas. From time to time, parts of the plot are re-worked as needed by the unfolding of time. I found it an interesting approach to narration.
  • Anne
    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, Chapel beach in Lincolnshire. Suddenly in a moment the child is gone, kidnapped. It is five agonising day's for the parents before the child, Laura's mother is found. This is the story of the effects those actions had, on many lives.The child r...
  • Richard Allen
    I heard about this book via twitter – which is an increasingly great place to discover books old and new and interesting writers. It sounded intriguing so reserved a copy at the library which turned into a bit of a bun fight as everyone seemed to want it. Anyway, it is genuinely brilliant – in some ways it is a cross between a detective story and a slow burning thriller. I found this book extremely moving and was close to tears at the end. It...
  • Janilyn Kocher
    I love family mysteries. Five Days Gone unravels the layers of secrets revolving around the author's mother, Betty, who originally was called Grace. One day she disappeared from the beach, only to turn up a few days later. Most of the local villagers knew the truth about the incident as well as Betty's true parentage, but even years later, kept the secrets. Cumming reveals the truth painstakingly slowly: her mother's cold, austere upbringing, the...
  • Trish
    An interesting and detailed family history, it’s fascinating to learn how Laura and her mother gradually discovered her mother’s origins. There is a tendency to imagine the thought processes and emotions of ancestors that she couldn’t know - I do the same thing myself, but in this case she digs down deeper and gets to as close to the truth as she’s going to get. Photos are reproduced in the book, but they’re grainy and dim. Sadly an art...
  • Sheri S.
    A very well-written account of a daughter's search for her mother's origins...The book takes place in England's Lincolnshire Coast and gives some history of the place as well as its relatively few citizens. As a three year old, the author's mother (Betty), is kidnapped while playing on the beach and is missing for five days. The book uncovers the mystery of Betty's disappearance and recounts Betty's childhood experiences. The author includes pict...
  • Paula
    I listened to the abridged audio, done in 5, 15-minute (or was it 30?) segments. The story flips back and forth in time, which I have found difficult to follow when in these audio presentations. It was probably cathartic for the author to put this story to paper, but in the end the bones of the tale aren't particularly interesting. The book might go more into the humanity of the story. It was, after all, a heartbreaking tale for almost everyone i...
  • Jackie
    A cleverly written biography of the author’s family. It tells the story of family secrets in a normal Lincolnshire family from the 1920s onwards. Also beautifully evocative of the landscape, a mix of social history, family, art. I really enjoyed this even though it left me with an overwhelming sense of the sadness for the people involved and made me wonder about the untold stories in our own families. Worth reading.
  • Angela
    I listened to this as an audiobook through the BBC Sounds website.This is a biography about the author's mother Betty, who it turns out was originally called Grace. One day she vanishes from the beach, aged only three, but turns up again a few days later. Betty cannot remember what had happened, and this is the premise of the book, to discover the mystery of what had happened to Betty.A sad and yet uplifting story of family secrets.
  • Ben
    ‘On Chapel Sands’ is a powerful meditation on love and loss and how secrets and lies can be contained in memories and images. Most of all it is a reminder to pay heed to EM Forster’s epigraph at the beginning of ‘Howard’s End’ to ‘Only Connect’ and as someone who lives in the area that the author writes about and who has a parent with a terminal disease by the close of the book I was emotionally overcome. It is a testament to the ...
  • Kristine
    Five Days Gone by Laura Cumming is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late August.Cumming investigates the mystery of her mother Elizabeth’s childhood kidnapping from a beach in 1929 by examining all known possibilities before delving further into research, though it's told nearly all in the aftermath of her return and learning the truth of her parentage. It's just way too dense a story for what could be summed up in, say, 4 sentences.
  • Sarah Tregear
    3,5 stars really. This is a beautifully written book, slow paced with lots of social history and history of that area of Lincolnshire. Paintings and art help build the scene and bring the narrative along. I found it a little frustrating that you get tiny bits of information about the kidnapping and change of name from Grace to Betty throughout the book but by time I’d got to the end it felt dragged out. To say it left me unsatisfied is too stro...
  • Mary Clarkson
    This was a very touching story about the author’s search for some of the missing pieces in her mother’s early years. It is beautifully written. Occasionally it is a little repetitive and her fiercely protective instinct for her mother is sometimes hard to understand. Reminded me in some ways of Bart van Ed’s The Cut out Girl and it would be interesting or read them back to back.
  • Linda
    Beautifully written, slowly emerging narrative but seen through the prism of how important art is to our understanding of the world and relationships. If that sounds like tough going, it really is not. A humane and revealing true story, set in its context of a small community in Lincolnshire but with universal application. How true stories can be as fascinating as novels
  • Jennifer
    Started out very good, pulling me in. But about half way through it just fizzled out. There wasn’t that much of a story there and the author, an art critic, draws analogies between the story and different paintings. But it’s a real stretch sometimes to find the connections. It feels like a devise to drag out the story.
  • Clare
    Wonderfully written and moving story about the search for the truth about the early life of the author's mother, who her parents were and why they acted as they did, a gradual unravelling of the truth from the secrets that were kept for decades in a conspiracy of silence by all the adults involved. Highly recommended.
  • Julie Hudson
    This was a 2.5 for me - I read it quickly but found it too long winded and drawn out and somewhat over dramatised the situation I felt. The blurb made me feel that it was going to be a more interesting unveiling than it was but I kept reading to see if there was going to be a mind blowing revelation at the end.
  • Joanne Shaw
    Confession - I listened to this book on Radio 4 rather than read it.Many families have extraordinary stories but few are described so beautifully. I'm sure it's no accident that listening to the story felt somehow like looking at the Vermeer milkmaid painting which features in the book. Being able to see some of the photographs online added to the experience.
  • Pat Newman
    Touching tribute At times this book seemed too long, but I kept reading out of respect for the diligence and love that propelled Cumming to tell her mother's sad story. I admire her determination to complete the laborious research, which in the end was so satisfying to all involved.
  • Tami Kazdal
    The book was beautifully written and I enjoyed the authors descriptions - the only reason I’m giving it a three. Otherwise it was sooooo slow I could hardly get through it. I finally had to put it down and I’m not sure I’ll finish it. It’s a nice book - but not a page turner.