If You Sit Very Still

by Marian Partington; Jessica Kingsley, £13

Marian Partington is the sister of Lucy Partington, who disappeared on her way home on December 20, 1973 and whose remains were found 20 years later in the cellar of the house in Gloucester owned by Fred and Rosemary West.

The subtitle, “A Sister’s Fierce Engagement with Traumatic Loss”, barely captures the intensity of the author’s grief and suffering. Yet the book has a strangely redemptive quality to it which raises it to a different level when compared with other books of this kind.

We learn that Lucy, a gifted third-year student of English literature at Exeter University, had become a Catholic just five weeks before her disappearance. Asked about what she intended to do after graduation, she had replied that she would do something “up to the hilt”. And in answer to the query “Where are you going?”, she had responded, “Towards the light” – perhaps an allusion to the meaning of her name, but possibly a premonition that in her case the “light” would emerge very soon.

Understandably, Marian’s book evolved over many years. She began to write it in 1995, the year after the appalling truth behind Lucy’s disappearance became known, in the full glare of the media coverage surrounding the Wests’ crimes (several other bodies were unearthed at their house).

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