Every Friday I post a reading recommendation for the weekend. This week curl up with Diana Cranstoun’s In My Father’s Footsteps. Have tissues at the ready. More than sixty year’s after her father’s WWII experience and decades after his death, Cranstoun retraces his steps to Dunkirk.
When I contacted the author about this post, I let her know I planned to run it on August 15, 2014. In a weird twist, this date would have been her parent’s 75th wedding anniversary. (If you read the book, you’ll note that Cranstoun is a firm believer in “signs”.)
Cranstoun also posts a blog wherein she does really cool things like spending four weeks on wartime rations. She details those posts with pics and recipes of her experience. In honor of her culinary trek through WWII, I’m going to recommend a couple of recipes from her blog: Sausage Casserole (doesn’t include an actual recipe, but a description and pic) and Bread Pudding.
And now, on to the delicious details of this weekend’s reading offering …
EXCERPT: In My Father’s Footsteps
We’re introduced to Noel and his wife. (He was a boy of eleven when my Dad was stationed in his village.) I show him the photo of Mum and Dad. “Ahhh.” He smacks the picture in that Gallic way. “Jacques Cranstoon.”
But I’m not totally sold. After all, I wrote Dad’s name in my letter to the mayor and perhaps Noël wants this connection to the past as much as I do.
And then he says something that sends a shiver up my spine. “Et vôtre mère, Marie.”
Nowhere – nowhere – had I written my mother’s name. This is very – very – real.
We talk, Anna interpreting as I catch only every fourth or fifth word. My dad was billeted in a house next to Noël’s family. Throughout that bitter winter, with no light or heating in their billet, Dad and another married soldier went next door to Noël’s warm house every Friday evening to write letters home to their wives.
Noël reaches into his pocket, pulls out a small, rather battered leather diary and offers it to me. “Your Dad gave it to him for Christmas 1939,” Anna translates. The hairs on my arms stand on end. It’s as though, to borrow a quote from Alan Bennett’s History Boys, a hand has reached out of the past and taken mine.
Once again, Dad’s in the room with us.
Random Facts About Diana Cranstoun
A transplanted Scot, she’s lived more than half her life in Calgary. She had the great pleasure to meet Gregory Peck. She’s fired a machine gun – not in anger. She loves writing poems on her windows using coloured Sharpie pens. In 2009, she and a friend retraced her father’s footsteps from a village in France to the beaches of Dunkirk.