On Chapel Sands

Laura Cumming with Lee Randall

1 July 2020

Laura Cumming talks to journalist Lee Randall about her Sunday Times bestselling memoir.

Uncovering the mystery of her mother’s disappearance as a child, Cumming, chief art critic of The Observer since 1999, decided to take a closer look at her family story.

This event took place on Wednesday 1 July, as part of our #WigtownWednesdays programme


Autumn 1929 – a young girl is kidnapped from a beach. Five agonising days go by before she is discovered safe and well in a nearby village. The child remembers nothing of these events and at home, nobody ever speaks of them again.

Decades later, the writer delves into the mystery surrounding her mother’s disappearance. Examining everything from old family photos to letters, tickets and recipes, she uncovers a series of secrets and lies perpetuated not just by her family but by the whole community and in doing so unlocks a mystery almost a century old.

"A moving, many-sided human story of great depth and tenderness, and a revelation of how art enriches life," Sunday Times
"A modern masterpiece," Guardian

Sunday Times bestseller
Shortlisted for the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction
Shortlisted for the Costa Biography Prize
Shortlisted for the Rathbones Folio Prize
Longlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize