A Powerful Story

Five O’clock Follies: What’s A Woman Doing Here Anyway?


Isolation happens at different times in everyone’s lives. Sometimes we feel alone after losing someone dear to us. Other times we feel alone and cast aside when we have a difference of opinion with a co-worker, friend or family member. But, sometimes isolation happens even in crowds, large groups and new surroundings when those around us feel our presence is negligible, trivial and has not bearing on anything that concerns them.


Did a hole in the ground and create your own trench to protect you from harm. Add about 10 more people that happen to need the same protection as you do. No one converses with anyone. No one is concerned about you or the next person. No one really cares. War: why do some choose to go and fight when they don’t have to be there? Why do some reporters want to cover a story? Why would one woman place herself in harm’s way and fly across the world to cover a story about a war that most people feel we should not have fought to get glossed over, stared at, ogled and criticized just to prove to herself and others she can stand alone and do a job! Andrea Martinelli was isolated, ostracized and treated as a pariah the moment she set foot of the plane that landed her in Viet Nam. Leaving her life the safety of her home and former job she decided to become a freelance journalist reporting on one of the most publicized and criticized wars: The Vietnam War. That trench you dug just might feel like a bottomless pit. But, Andrea will prove to many that she is more than just a woman and her inner shell is hard as nails. Before all is said and done she will become more than just a journalist but a force that many will not want to reckon with.


Nick O’Brien and his photographer are covering the movements of a politician when he runs smack dab into Andrea. Realizing that she is as they put it a greenhorn, he tries to warn her about the briefings and the way newbie’s you might say are treated. Knowing that she did not have the backing of a newspaper or any press behind her made her the target for laughter, ridicule and banter among the men. But, Andrea can hold her liquor. Andrea is smart as one man who offered her more than just dinner found out.


Andrea is about to get her first taste of a briefing as she and a kooky photographer named Parks scoop everyone when they go for a story in Loc Ninh. As the author describes the camaraderie among the reporters one stands out above the rest. Seasoned reporter Curtis seems to know each person there, their names and even their accomplishments but it is one young man named John whose story he wanted to hear and as much as he tried to hide from telling it the author allows him to relate something amazing. What would you do if you got a battlefield interview with Moshe Dayan? How great would that be and why wouldn’t he want to share it?


After they return from the briefing Nick O’Brien and Angela team up to have a drink but what happens next would remind everyone that you are never safe in this country, you can trust no one even little kids and the cops in Vietnam do not care who they attack, hit or beat up. But, what the reader does learn is that Andrea is definitely not a wimp and holds more than her own in the attack.


Female correspondents and journalists like Andrea have more to prove among their male peers. Editors for the most part did not want them in Vietnam or near the combat zone. But, like Andrea some found their way over there and survived more than most women should. Some taken prisoner like Andrea, suffering more than just simple bruises only prove that in a man’s world as some would call this some women do just fine.


Listening to the voices of each reporter the reader gets a different sense as to why he is there. Some really care about the art of reporting the story while others are just there to drink, possibly get the scoop or just listen to the voices in the wind. Angela teams up with not only Nick but also the reporter who get the story about Dayan named John Simenson and their interaction is quite interesting. But, even more some feel the reporters are not doing their jobs, that they do not understand the war, their responsibilities and even more their purpose. As you learn more about Braeford Curtis, Corrigan, Nick and the rest each one relates to the reader a different take on the war, the Vietnam and their viewpoints.


The author then allows Andrea to flashback to her life with Peter and Jackson as you learn the reasons why she decided to become a journalist. Andrea enlists the help of Johnny to find some papers or outlets for her stories since the usual ones do not seem interested in graphic pictures that actually depict the war as it really is. Then, listening to a Colonel’s wife explain the problems with reporters you begin to hear the poor mentality of some and understand the frustrations of others. The Pacification Program seems to be in the forefront, a politician named Leary who has his own viewpoint about reporters and Angela, plus the fact that Kevin seems to want to defend her and hot allow them to roll over on her because she is slightly green as they say. But, the author reveals some interesting information about her past allowing the reader to know she is quite talented and not so inexperienced as most think.


But, this is a country filled with hate, distrust and fear for most. Curtis and Angela develop an odd relationship since he’s quite a bit older and seems to distrust her. Telling everyone she cannot be trusted and has no backing. But, sometimes the tide changes and someone did buy her hospital story and the one about the orphanage that cared for Eurasian Children. As Angela relates to Nick a story that would break anyone’s heart and how she allowed herself to really listen to the person grieving, hear his words and tell the story about what happened to his wife and wrote and got the story that no one else had. Reporters, she sates are on their own trip. How do you sort out the difference between writing the story and the byline and really writing what life is like for people to really understand the harsh truths and realities of war? Why not show what was going on? Why hide it?


Angela attends a party and her true metal is shown as she and Curtis square off and the end result well you have to read for yourself as the reader and Curtis learn what happens when you get the so called wrong impression of a really street smart woman. Then she and Nick collaborated and worked on stories about the failed attempt to take over the Saigon government radio station the house to house fighting in Cholon, the burned out buildings and much more. The war was become real to her and the end result far from near.


Sitting back and waiting for things to happen was not what Angela was about and she chanced going to Hue and what happens would send out a search party for her as she is taken in by a group of soldiers who could care less that she’s a reporter. Spending ten days with the Viet Cong and NVA brought her to the attention of the higher ups in the military. Called in to discuss her time with the Viet Cong she is questioned about being taken off the bus, her treatment. Relating how she would be haunted with nightmares, the interviews she was allowed to do with other POW’s and the photos she was about to publish made those in charge wonder why they let her go and the purpose of allowing her to print what she saw.


Crashed choppers, confrontations with the military, unusual behavior and the realities of the war all take its toll on Andrea, Nick and the rest of the reporters. As she relives the incident and you hear the fear in her mind as she tells about the crash, those killed and they continue on as if nothing happened but it did. Invincible: is that what she thinks she is? Is anyone?


Join the soldiers, the reporters, Angela, Nick and the rest and relive the horrors of the war in Vietnam. Hear their voices, feel the mortar, undergo the stress, depression and much more and never forget it happened. The author includes photos of those killed and much more bringing it all back and home to the reader. What happens at the end you will have to learn for yourself as Angela and Curtis each live through a crash and one more critical than the other. Will she decide to go home or will she remain? What about her feelings for Curtis and what about Nick? War does things to people and changes them.  Author Theasa Tuohy asks the question; What’s Woman Doing Here, Anyway? You might say reporting, working or you might want to ask Angela. Characters that are real, incidents that really happened and war no one should ever forget.

Fran Lewis: reviewer

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