The bestselling author of The Vanishing Velazquez shares the 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 for decades.
I hardly dared hope that such an old mystery, where most of the protagonists are dead and those that aren’t remain tight-lipped, would be solved. Cumming’s achievement is in doing so whilst also writing a profound and beautiful book ... In telling two tales – that of her mother’s childhood and her own story of how the truth was eventually unravelled – Cumming illuminates the darkness of secrets, shame and betrayal and their effects in a riveting book.
... [an] enthralling book ... How to notice details that others have missed is another of Cumming’s skills, and she develops it while investigating her mother’s mystery ... For her and her mother, art is common currency, and they give famous artworks private meanings ... A lesson the book teaches is how greatly ordinary things matter, even the humblest ... New evidence about the crime with which the story starts keeps emerging until the last page. By the end you know more than you could ever have guessed about all the actors in the drama. But 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.
...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 the story of one family and its secrets ... [Cumming's] intermeshing of art, time and memory is superlative ... The repercussions are interrogated by Cumming with a hungry precision up to her last, revelatory pages.