CIRCLES – A Familily Memoir

Gisèle van Waterschoot van der Gracht and the people she hid in her apartment during the World War II occupation of Amsterdam endured tremendous hardship. Shortly after the liberation of Amsterdam by the Allied Forces, Gisèle met a Canadian Army private who happened to also be her cousin. He brought food to the apartment, and a lifelong friendship ensued.

After the war, Gisèle became well-known as a painter and stained-glass artist. She traveled extensively and never allowed difficulty to stand in the way of what she felt needed to be done. Her bravery was formally recognized by the Netherlands, Germany, and Israel. She died in 2013 at the age of 100.

Circles is a family memoir. Beginning with the stories told by the author’s father—the Canadian soldier Gisele met in Amsterdam in 1945—it continues with other friends’ and relatives’ tales about the artist’s long, extraordinary life.

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This latest book from Joanna van der Gracht de Rosado explores her Dutch family roots in the context of her aunt, a well known Dutch artist, and her life during the second World War in Amsterdam. Meticulously researched and presented in easily digested prose, this is a dramatic story of war, courage, privation and suffering, uplifting and inspiring. I could not put it down. How proud the author must be of not only her brave and stalwart aunt, but also her Canadian forces father and friend who quite literally saved Gisele and her friends’ lives at just the right time! A very satisfying read, and a timely reminder to us all that we must stand up for what we know to be right, and never bend to oppression. Highly recommended!


I loved this book! These memoirs of an inspirational woman take place over the course of the 20th century. The story is engaging, pulling you into the lives of the characters. The pace is good, and kept me flipping the pages. Events take place in Europe, the United States and unites Canadians, Dutch and many other people, a really nice contemporary read in this global world that we live now. As the story is recounted now by her niece, author Van der Gracht de Rosado, it is almost like time travel, linking the present with the past.
Some of it relates to times during the Second World War, but it is a not a gloomy war story, the resilient main character is uplifting. I especially love historical novels, and this felt right into my favorite reads. The characters were real but the book read like a novel. I enjoyed all the historical details and learned a lot, which is what I love to take away from stories taking place in different historical contexts. The descriptions were vivid and the writing style made for an easy read with delicious metaphors. I won’t spoil the fun and quote any here! Read it!
The author Joanna Van der Gracht de Rosado, a Canadian-born author, of Dutch descent, pulls us into her family memoirs with this compelling story of war and courage, persistence and resilience, revealing intimate family details from her thorough research and family diaries.

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