The Lost Mother

Anne Summers

The Lost Mother
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The Lost Mother

Anne Summers

After her mother’s death in 2005, Anne Summers inherits a portrait of her mother as a child. Mesmerised by this image, she finds herself drawn into the story of how the portrait was painted and eventually found its way into her family. She soon learns the artist painted another portrait of her mother; this time as the Madonna.

In a gripping narrative that is part art history, part detective story and part meditation on the relations between mothers and daughters, Anne’s search for the Madonna painting and the mysterious Russian emigre collector who bought both paintings takes her down unexpected paths. Her search soon turns into a parallel quest to rescue Constance Stokes, the artist, from obscurity, and to learn why the collector suddenly abandoned the paintings.

Along the way Anne finds she must face the truth of the relationship she had with her mother. In turn hypnotic and moving, The Lost Mother is a powerful exploration of art, loss and love.


When I was younger, Anne changed my perception of the world with her wonderful Damned Whores and God’s Police. Now, 25 years later, I put my daughter to bed and pick up her latest offering. Here, Anne begins to determine the origin of a portrait of her own mother from the stance of the painter, the owners, and consequently of herself and her mother. It is a journey full of complexity and pain for all involved, told with honesty and regard for the women within the story.

The Lost Mother brings into the light the history of Melbourne from the 1930s to now – and the role of female artists (in particular Constance Stokes, the artist of the portrait) and social identities in shaping our cultural landscape. But most of all, Summers explores the choices women make between parenthood, creativity and love.

I read through the night and marvel again that one writer could fit so much of herself and of us all into one beautifully presented book. I finish and step a little closer to understanding how choices also involve sacrifice.

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