This award winning book is simply beautiful, within its pages are stories within stories, and they all began with an encounter between an American soldier and a little French boy in the months following the D-day landings on Omaha Beach, France, in June 1944.
Finding Gilbert, a true story
The soldier was the author’s father, Donald Kenneth Johnson, a lieutenant junior grade in the 111th Battalion of the Seabees, the builders of amongst other things, the Rhino Ferries which brought the troops from ship to shore. Never could he have realised that the day he spotted a small seven year old orphan boy called Gilbert DesClos hiding in the tall grass on the cliff overlooking the beach that the child would become so important to him. Because of this, part of his own family’s lives were deeply affected through his recounting of his memories of those times.
Diane was one of four children, two boys born before the war and her sister Sharon and herself born afterwards to Donald and his Australian wife Daisy. Growing up in America, close to her father, Diane loved his tales of France and the French people, including the story of the little French ‘brother’ she had never met.
These tales imbibed her with an intense love of France. All she wanted to do was to go there, experience the wonder of this fantastic country and visit the places her father had been to. As often happens ‘life’ got in the way, and she was destined to become a wife and mother, and felt she might never fulfill her childhood dream.
However, her deep love of France and everything French inspired this intrepid woman. She studied French and absorbed everything she could about the language and culture from a distance. This diligence paid off enabling her to become a freelance writer and also an interpreter.
It was not until after her father’s death that she managed to travel to his wartime Normandy haunts and find Gilbert DesClos. An adult now, with a family of his own, she, through her hard work studying of French was able to discover the incredible impact her father had on Gilbert and how subtly those brief few months with her father had shaped him. The years they spent together and the great joy the French and American families gained from this reunion played a very special part in all their lives.
This story is absolutely captivating, it is not only an incredibly in-depth memoir of the author but also of her father. In it she captures beautifully the love which can exist between a father and daughter.
From the beginning there is something for everyone. Perhaps you are in love with France yourself and want to holiday or live there? Through the author’s wonderfully descriptive writing you discover some of its regions with its beauties and treasures. Perhaps you are interested in history? Well if this is the case the author’s recounting of her father’s memories, vividly recounting of the blood bath Omaha Beach was on D-day, and the terrible loss of lives and hardships suffered there will be of interest, as will the celebrations and reunions of the veterans in the 50th, 60th and 70th D-day Memorials which have been held since.
Find Gilbert: A promise fulfilled by Diane Covington-Carter is available from Amazon.
Diane Covington-Carter is also the author of Eight Months in Provence, A Junior Year Abroad Thirty Years Late, find out more at www.dianecovingtoncarter.com