On and off for the past six years, I have been researching and writing a book that is very dear to me. And at long last, the Kindle version of Circles is available on Amazon.
For readers who prefer to read a hard copy, that version will also be coming on line soon. I’ll post the link as soon as I have it.
Circles tells the story of Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht, an amazingly talented artist from the Netherlands, who happens to be my aunt.
During World War II she hid her Jewish friends in a tiny apartment on the Herengracht, one of Amsterdam’s main canals. Clean water, food and fuel of any kind, were scarce. Her circle lived in constant fear of discovery, but she never allowed danger or privation to stifle her independent courageous spirit. Thanks to Gisèle’s resourcefulness, they survived the Nazi occupation.
My father, John, Gisèle’s first cousin, was a member of the Canadian Army division that liberated the Netherlands. Dad had her address and when he got a day’s leave, he went to visit her. Gisèle’s living conditions and her gaunt appearance made him so uncomfortable that after a brief stay, he made excuses and left. She could not believe it when he returned later that same day with all the supplies he could carry.
Dad’s battalion soon moved on to the Belgian refugee camps and the two cousins never saw one another again. However until his death in 1982, he and Gisèle stayed in touch through letters. Afterwards, my sister and I took up the thread.
From our correspondence and during multiple visits with Gisèle, I learned more about her background and her legacy. She married and went with her husband, Arnold d’Ailly to Greece. They lived part time in a restored monastery on the island of Paros, and this is where she began painting circles. To her, circles represented the resilience and continuity of life. She also referred to her groups of painters, writers, friends and family as her circles.
She admired talent, warmth and intelligence – and always looked for heart. She lived to one hundred years of age, but her curiosity and whimsical view of life never waned. My aunt believed that the path to happiness is most easily travelled when we are generous with our possessions, talents and gifts.
And on the topic of generosity – an international cast helped me through the entire writing process. My family top the list – without Jorge, Carlos and Maggie’s support, I could not have even begun this project. My publisher kept me on task and on time – thank you Lee. Friends from the Netherlands, from Canada, the U.S.A. and Mexico all lent me their time and expertise.
I feel it is significant that Circles has been released in 2015, for this year marks the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War Two; Circles lends itself to reflection about that time, about the present state of our planet, and about ourselves.