The Lost Mother

A Story of Art and Love

(Melbourne University Press), 2009, 2010

The Lost Mother, published by Melbourne University Press, is a gripping narrative that is part art history, part detective story and part meditation on the relations between mothers and daughters.

It recounts how after Anne inherited a portrait of her mother as a child, she decides to search for the lost companion painting, where her mother was painted as the Madonna.

The story is both moving, and hypnotic as Anne embarks on a parallel quest to rescue the artist, Constance Stokes, from obscurity and to learn the fate of the mysterious Russian émigré collector who originally bought the portrait.

Publication date: July 2009
Format: hardback, 368 pp (8pp pics)
ISBN-10 : 0-522-85635-7
ISBN-13 : 978-0-522-85635-4

Publication date: May 2010
Format: paperback, 408 pp, PB, 198 x 128 mm, 8 pp colour pics
ISBN-13 : 978-0-522-85739-9

Anne was a guest on Jon Faine‘s morning show on ABC Radio 774 in Melbourne on 14 May 2010, co-hosted that day by Sonya Hartnett and also featuring mountaineer Andrew Lock. Listen online now or Right click here to download MP3 to play later.

Anne was interviewed by Margaret Throsby on ABC FM on 6 August 2009. Listen online with Real Player, Windows Media Player or MP3 player. Right click to download and play later.

Anne was interviewed by Richard Aedy for Life Matters on ABC Radio National on 1 July 2009. Listen online now or download audio in MP3 format.

Anne was interviewed by Richard Glover for the Drive show on ABC Radio 702 on 29 June 2009. Listen online to Part 1 and Part 2 with your MP3 player or right click to download and play later.


The Lost Mother is a book that is bound to get many a detective-minded reader going. Ultimately, it is a literary triple-portrait of the women linked through a painted portrait: the artist, the owner and the sitter. And it is, of course, a portrait of the author herself.”

Read rest of review by Stephen Scheding, The Age

“To my great relief and boundless pleasure then, I can confidently say that The Lost Mother is an absolute treasure of a book.”

Read rest of review by Sara Dowse, The Canberra Times

“In its construction, its mosaic-like structures, its criss-crossing paths of cause and effect, what The Lost Mother ultimately reveals, thanks to Summers’s skill, is that a painting — or a book, or any work of art — is not just an accumulation or manipulation of paints or pencil or words on a page. It is an object capable of absorbing or reflecting all kinds of meanings that we, the viewers, put into it. It is not a static object; it shimmers with a life we perceive, or think we perceive, within it.”

Read rest of review by Angela Bennie, The Australian

” … 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.”

Read rest of review by Chris Gordon, Readings Events Coordinator

“It’s a journey of an emotional kind, where she seeks to discover the other ‘lost mother’, the one with whom she had a difficult relationship over the decades, and who died suddenly in 2005. There are many threads to follow in this multi-faceted story, including that of Constance Stokes, once a famous Australian artist, but now largely forgotten.”

Australian Bookseller & Publisher magazine

“As she unveils from obscurity this wonderful artist and the secrets of the collector who owned the original painting, she also reveals the pain of her damaged relationship with her mother. This is indeed a beautiful book.”

Read rest of review by Megan O’Brien at Shearer’s Bookshop