BOOK REVIEW: ‘Five Honeymoons’: True Story of California Writer United with Her Childhood Sweetheart After 68 Years Resonates as a Delightful Love Story

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen

 I am not young but I feel young. The day I feel old, I will go to bed and stay there. J’aime la vie! I feel that to live is a wonderful thing. — Coco Chanel

Youth is wasted on the young. — George Bernard Shaw

When Evelyn De Wolfe told me her new book was titled “Five Honeymoons: A True Story” (The Ashlin Press/CreateSpace, 196 pages, $12.95) I responded:  “How can you have five honeymoons when you’ve been married only three times?” OK, if I didn’t use those exact words, they come close

five honeymoons cover

 to what I was thinking about my Los Angeles Times colleague Evie De Wolfe.

One of the best things about working for The Times for almost fifteen years — aside from my wonderful boss, Real Estate Editor Dick Turpin, of course — was my friendship with Evie De Wolfe, among quite a few others at the newspaper in downtown Los Angeles. Just seeing Evie was enough to brighten my day, and visiting her and her third husband, photojournalist Leonard Nadel,  in their home in the Hollywood Hills was enough to recharge me for a week at least.

in “Five Honeymoons” Evie, born Evelyn Ashlin  in Rio de Janeiro (her father was a British subject and she had strong ancestral ties to the land land of her birth and to Rio, her hometown) knew Juan Clinton “Juany” Llerena from their parents’ membership in the Rio de Janeiro Country Club, which had many international members. Juan was of American (on his mother’s side) and Peruvian ancestry and both he and Evelyn Ashlin were multilingual. Many people Evie encountered in Los Angeles, where she began her journalism career, were surprised that this lovely green-eyed blonde was Brazilian. They didn’t know what a melting pot of a country Brazil was and is.

 Bob Armstrong, a childhood friend of Juany, now living in New Jersey, in 2004  re-connected with the man he he knew as a child in Kingston, PA when the Llerenas moved next door to the Armstrongs in 1934. Through emails, Evie reconnected with Juany, now a consultant to the Brazilan port system — an important post in a country that depends a great deal on exports and imports. If it all sounds like a Hollywood story, it’s because it IS a Hollywood story — and a Brazilian one!
The serendipitous reunion of the two childhood sweethearts began in earnest with the delivery from Juany to Evie  of a large envelope with a copy of a photograph of Juany’s 13th birthday party at the country club, along with a letter he’d written  that same year, 1937, describing Evelyn Ashlin to a friend:
“…I’ve marked my girlfriend’s leg with an X [on the photograph]. She’s the prettiest and sweetest girl I’ve met and her name is Evelyn Ashlin. Alas, she may be going to England next year and I suppose that will be the end of our romance….”
five honeymoons back cover
In her Hollywood home, Evie wondered where Juany got the idea she was moving to England: “I chuckled. Why would Juany assume I was going to England when in fact I never left Brazil until I was twenty-one?” She writes that the photo depicted her as a typical 13-year-old bobby soxer, wearing “a pretty white party dress with puffed sleeves”  seated next to the “birthday boy.”  She describes her crush on Juany as “puppy love” but subsequent events proved that this was one long-lived puppy!
She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Brazil at age twenty and worked with the U.S. Embassy as a translater and consultant and later as a researcher for Walt Disney and still later as a journalist for a newspaper in the Los Angeles suburb of Alhambra CA and later the Los Angeles Times for 40 years in various reporting capacities.
The five “honeymoons” in this evocative book should inspire people who subscribe to the epigraphs I’ve chosen to repeat as part of this review. As long as you’re alive, you should live life to the fullest and in their five encounters Evelyn De Wolfe and Juan Llerena did just that. The two were fortunate that the children of both encouraged the relationship, with Evie’s daughter, Terry, arranging for romantic places for the two and Juany’s family doing the same in Brazil.  Evie’s son from her first marriage, Cleve Landsberg, an independent movie producer, and his wife, Catherine, were also enthusiastic about the reunion of the the two sweethearts. Catherine Landsberg is the daughter of the late Patrick McGoohan (1928-2009), one of my favorite actors, who is most famous for his eponymous role in the British TV series “The Prisoner.” Before his appearance in that wonderful series, he was the star of the British TV series “Secret Agent”, AKA “Danger Man.” The American-born, British reared film and stage actor was also a frequent villain on the TV show “Colombo”, starring Peter Falk.
I heartily recommend “Five Honeymoons” to young people of all ages, men and women. I guarantee that this book will deliver a perfect mix of laughter and tears  by a skilled writer.
About the Author
Author/journalist Evelyn De Wolfe, a graduate of the University of Brazil, was born and raised in Rio de Janeiro and came to this country on a student/teacher fellowship to the University of Washington. She served as interpreter for the US Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs and the Photographic Unit of the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) and was later hired by Walt Disney as a project researcher. She also served as a Hollywood Foreign Press correspondent for Brazilian and British publications, before engaging in a long career as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times. A resident of Hollywood, California, she has traveled worldwide on assignments for domestic and international publications and was listed in Who’s Who of American Women.
Reviewer’s Note: As a bonus to readers of this review of a book by my friend Evie, I’m reprinting my review of her book “Across the Herring Pond.”
 Sept. 1, 2010

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Across the Herring Pond’: A Wonderful Addition to Time Travel Genre

Reviewed By David M. Kinchen

One of my favorite subcategories of science fiction is the time travel novel. The modern master of this genre is Jack Finney (born Oct. 2, 1911 in Milwaukee and died Nov. 14, 1995 in Northern California). He’s most famous for his 1955 novel “The Body Snatchers”, filmed the following year under the direction of Don Siegel as “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” It has been filmed several times since, most recently with Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig in 2007 as “The Invasion.”

In 1970 Finney’s first time travel novel novel, “Time and Again,” was published. (A sequel, “From Time to Time”, was published just before Finney’s death in 1995). The protagonist of both books, Simon Morley, is working in advertising in New York City in “Time and Again”– Finney was a “Mad Man” in NYC before he became a full-time writer — when he is recruited for a secret government project trying to achieve time travel, with participants steeping themselves in the history and culture of a place and time. Morley did this and traveled back to 1882 New York City through self-hypnosis.

Finney’s classic time travel novel came to mind while I was reading Evelyn De Wolfe’s “Across the Herring Pond” (Trafford Publishing, 364 pages, $26.95, available on Amazon.com.

The Simon Morley of De Wolfe’s fantasy novel is a young American journalist named Evelyn Ashlin, who comes upon a travel journal of a 19th century Cornish squire, who is in fact her own great-great-great grandfather. Quite taken with her discovery, she fantasizes viewing early America as it was almost 200 years ago, traveling back to 1810 Cornwall and traveling to America as his companion.

Empowered by the mind’s inner vision, and with the magic of invisibility at her command, Evelyn Ashlin takes a bold leap backward through time, determined to meet face-to-face with her ancestor and persuade him to let her ride on the coattails of his fascinating adventure. Her portal of entry is an heirloom painting through which she is led magically to the land of Cornwall and the world of 1810.

At first, both annoyed and mystified by the presence of a female “spirit”, Squire James Hosking finally gives in to her wish when promised a trade-off gift he cannot refuse — a glimpse of the future.

Just as Finney gives us a finely detailed picture of Manhattan in 1882 in “Time and Again” so does De Wolfe paints a detailed picture of early 19th century Cornwall and the places of the East Coast of America that she visits with James Hosking. Their ship lands at the South Street Seaport in Manhattan, today a popular tourist destination, and — as we embark on a journey through the country — we can almost feel and smell everything.

Evelyn and Squire James travel by ship and stagecoach through a pre-railroad America, visiting the nation’s still new capital city, Washington, where they attend a reception given by President James Madison and his party-loving wife, First Lady Dolley Madison. In those pre-Homeland Security Days, just about anyone can walk up to the White House and talk to the doorman and secure an invitation to a reception. No background check required! Young Evelyn also sees the cruelties of slavery first-hand, on a coastal packet boat where the captain physically abuses a slave who’s a cook on the boat.

De Wolfe has created a remarkable time travel novel in “Across the Herring Pond.” (“Herring Pond” is a Cornish way of describing the Atlantic Ocean, the source of herring favored by the protein-seeking people of the Cornish peninsula. I personally favor their pasties, pot pies that are also a staple of the cuisine of the Upper Peninsula of my native state of Michigan, which has a substantial Cornish-American population.

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