For most of us, setting out to write about our parents would present a few challenges: where to start, what parts of their lives to focus on, and, most importantly, how to make it interesting to anyone who’s not one of their children.
Romie Christie didn’t have to worry about any of that; she had a perfect meet-cute story to tell that was not only romantic but was connected to one of the seminal events of the twentieth century: the liberation of France near the end of the Second World War.
See You in Le Touquet, subtitled “A memoir of war and destiny”, tells the story of how a Canadian soldier and a young English woman came together—and stayed together—because of a whimsical, but charming, promise made at the height of the German occupation. In the summer of 1940, while German and British airplanes battled overhead, Dorothy Borutti and her parents took shelter in their cottage on the northeast coast of France. As the bombs fell from the skies, Dorothy made a decision—something she’d been thinking of for a while. When liberation finally came, she would throw her arms around the first Allied soldier she saw and greet him with a grateful, passionate kiss.
That soldier, as it turned out, was Captain Sandy MacPherson of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps. If the good captain had not decided, on a whim, to drive up the coast to Le Touquet that day, and if he had not been seated in the passenger side of the Jeep—well, things might have turned out differently. As it was, he was perfectly positioned to be startled by the sudden appearance of a pretty blonde waving her arms excitedly and running towards them. MacPherson jumped out of the vehicle and, to his surprise, the young woman came up to him, stood on her toes, and kissed him, smack on the lips. The rest, as they like to say, is history.
And here I need to come clean: Romie Christie is a friend and former colleague and I first heard her parents’ story many years ago, when I persuaded her to tell it on the air. She told it well, but here she has given us so much more. While the kiss is the high point of the narrative, she takes us back to the early years of both Sandy and Dorothy and their origins in very different parts of the world. In my view, she’s done her research well, digging into the history of Le Touquet and working with a historian to track down death certificates and news articles. Through essays written by her father and a diary of her mother’s (kept, by the way, when she was briefly imprisoned by the Gestapo!), she has filled in the descriptive and revealing details that make the writing so vivid. By the end of the book, I was left with a strong sense not only of two people who led captivating lives but of the political and social world that informed their actions.
See You in Le Touquet should be required reading for students of history and for anyone who simply likes a good story well told.
See You in Le Touquet: A memoir of war and destiny. By Romie Christie. DriverWorks Ink. $24.95