On Chapel Sands: My mother and other missing persons by Laura Cumming

Cover of On Chapel Sands: My mother and other missing persons

I picked this up not really sure if I was going to like it but it turned out to be exactly my kind of thing. A family memoir that tells one family’s story but details a whole swathe of social history while it’s at it. It’s very well written and nicely structured, and a great mystery besides. The author holds back on everything she knows to reveal it more-or-less as she learned of it herself.
As the subtitle says it’s the story of her mother, who went missing as a toddler on a Lincolnshire beach, and was later found a dozen miles away. Like any mystery I don’t want to give the details of the plot away. In order to figure out what was going on on the beach that day the author and her family have to put together a whole heap of clues, some of them obvious, some of them red-herrings, some of them very subtle. I had an idea where the plot was going, and just enough of my ideas were right to make me feel clever, and there were still twists to be surprised by. Forgive me for treating this non-fiction book like a fictional one for a minute, what I’m trying to say is that it’s well written and very readable. You can’t forget that these are real people’s lives here.
This is one person’s story, but it’s also the story of a the society that person lived in, which makes it familiar to many, and it’s well worth a read.


More information about this book can be found on goodreads.

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