The Five O’Clock Follies: What’s a Woman Doing Here Anyway?

Written by Theasa Tuohy
Review by Audrey Braver

In 1968, Angela Martinelli, wearing a light summer dress, high-heeled sandals, and a big hat, deplanes in Saigon. Immediately, she catches the eye of Nick O’Brien, a journalist from Chicago. At the official army news briefing that correspondents called the Five O’Clock Follies because the information is laughably less than reliable, Angela is thrown out for not following protocol. With no credentials and no credibility, too green and too pretty, she is a bit of an outcast and sits off in the corner of a bar popular with the other journalists, more or less watching the war go by. Nick finally invites her to hang with him and his colleagues. Then she begins to develop her own sources and starts looking for human interest stories among the Viet Nam civilians. When the U.S. Embassy is attacked, Nick asks her to be his stringer. Then a photographer invites her along to where there is actual fighting. She is in a helicopter crash, taken prisoner by the Cong. Soon Angela is accepted and respected by the other newsmen. Angela begins an affair with an older much-respected war correspondent whom she suspects has become soft.

Tuohy has written a thoroughly engrossing story. There is no retro-history, no political agenda here. Five O’Clock Follies starts slowly with a backstory to explain why Angela is in Viet Nam. The pace of the novel picks up when she finds herself in the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time and gets a scoop on a big story which gains her recognition. There are wonderful characters, love and death, wartime friendships and loss.