Audrey Hepburn’s May 4 Birthday and Some Women I Have Known


Lady Audrey   Johnny around 9_crop

Audrey 16 years old

John 9 years old

 

John skiing in Swiss Alps  Audrey in Tolochenaz Switzerland

John in Geneva and Audrey in Tolochenaz

My sweet memories of Audrey Hepburn are revealed in Chapter 1 of Some Women I Have Known, now published on amazon.com and soon available in paperback and hardcover. The short story I wrote some time ago is incorporated in this book.

My publisher, Willow Manor Publishing Inc., and I wanted it out by May 4, Audrey’s birthday. As many may remember,  Audrey died of intestinal cancer in 1993. Maybe the horrible malnourishment during the war-years in Holland that she went through sowed the seeds for that illness in her body. Her departure from her close family and millions of friends shocked everyone. It depressed me for a long time. After her brilliant career as a movie actress, with that lovable face and her unique eyes and smiles, she devoted herself completely to the malnourished children of UNICEF in Africa, South-Asia, and the Far-East, till just a few months before her passing away.

My memories are only on the fringe of her life. I only knew her and her mother when I grew up, and more recently e-mailed a few times with her son Sean. She came to visit my grandparents with her mother and grandfather during World War II when they lived near Arnhem because they were family and good friends, and my grandparents lived close by. I happened to be there on vacation. It was a brief afternoon, the memory of which stuck in my mind because she was such a bright-smiled and amiable girl, some 6 years older than I, and we both suffered so much from this war, she more than I because she was older and her stepbrothers were taken away. Even a little boy remembers such things. In Some Women I Have Known I tell this story, and her sudden apparition many years later in Geneva where I worked and she stayed in nearby Tolochenaz, and we could remember this precious encounter when she was still a little girl herself, not yet discovered, trying to find her way under the guidance of her strong-willed mother, who I called “Aunt Ella.”

I can’t be but very sentimental about Audrey. Her whole life she kept mesmerizing us at home. She lived at the firmament and we were so amazed that the girl, who came by on a visit, became such a wonderful star. When I studied in Paris, she filmed Charade with Cary Grant and had no time to see me. When I finally succeeded in Geneva, by pure luck, she remembered and told me that filming Charade had been very demanding on her, not in the least because of  the exacting Cary Grant.

I hope you enjoy Some Women I have Known. The novel is based on the nine short stories that I published under the same overarching title on Amazon before. I rewrote the stories into a self-standing novel to which is added the story Joy to the World (not previously published) which tells who the author (under the fictitious name of John van Dorn) finally marries. The content of some of the short stories has been slightly modified to mold them into a single story line.

The title of the novel is taken from the bundle of short stories originally written under the same title by Maarten Maartens, aka Joost van der Poorten Schwartz (1858-1915), my Grand- Uncle, which was published by William Heineman, London, and D. Appleton & Company, New York, in 1901. He wrote 14 novels and 4 bundles of short-stories, all still very readable and written in a luscious and illuminating style. His Some Women, in a reprint, is also available on Amazon.com, but their content is, of course, totally different from mine. The book explains why.

The back flap of Some Women I Have Known tells the interested reader that the novel is a coming-of-age tale in which John van Dorn searches for his true love and meets some playful, perilous, and wonderful women along the way. He rides a pony with soon-to-be film star Audrey Hepburn, senses his first fondness of female attention at elementary school, experiences tender moments with his cello-playing sweetheart while at boarding school, loses his virginity in a risky adventure, then savors several dangerous and unfortunate loves in Paris, Amsterdam, Geneva and the Swiss Alps, learning that life is full of losses and ephemeral relationships. After rescuing a woman in the middle of Africa and a narrow escape of life and death, he finally finds peace of mind with a warm and beautiful Caribbean goddess in the United States.

Each tale can be read in one sitting. So, relax and enjoy with a lush glass of wine, a smooth VSOP brandy or a cup of mellow cappuccino, and smile or drop a tear. The preliminary reviews are positive:

“Paying homage to his great uncle, an ex–World Bank professional makes his debut with a memoir featuring the series of women he encountered in his youth. If imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, then Joost van der Poorten Schwartz (or Maarten Maartens as he was called in publishing circles) scored the jackpot…

A wistful memory…” Kirkus Review.

Enjoy it, and give it a review and the stars you like.