As a young girl in a working-class neighborhood of Sydney, Australia, Geraldine Brooks longed to discover the places where history happens and culture comes from, so she enlisted pen pals who offered her a window on adolescence in the Middle East, Europe, and America. Twenty years later Brooks, an award-winning foreign correspondent, embarked on a human treasure hunt to find her pen friends. She found men and women whose lives had been shaped by war and hatred, by fame and notoriety, and by the ravages of mental illness. Intimate, moving, and often humorous, Foreign Correspondence speaks to the unquiet heart of every girl who has ever yearned to become a woman of the world.From the Trade Paperback edition.
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As a kid I always wanted pen pals. I had a couple, but no one (including myself) had the ability to just keep writing. I love Brooks' novels, and so this little insight to her early life was quite nice. Reading about kids growing up in different countries and seeing how they turned out. It definitely had some sad parts, but overall it was a lovely reminder to put pen to paper and write a friend.more
This is a memoir by the author of such wonderful books as People of the Book, Year of Wonders and March. This is the story of how Geraldine Brooks went from being a young girl with penpals (her early foreign correspondences) to a real-life career Foreign Correspondent. But it's much more than that. It is a story of growing up, a story of love and passion and yearning to see and to be more. As an adult, going through her father's things after his death, she finds the packet of letters she kept from her penpals. As an adult now, she decides to try to find those long-lost and far-flung people. From the blurb on the back:"She found men and women whose lives had been shaped by war and hatred, by fame and notoriety, and by the ravages of mental illness. Intimate, moving, and often humourous, Foreign Correspondence speaks to the unquiet heart of every girl who has ever yearned to become a woman of the world."more
This book spoke to me as it described Australia during the author's youth. While the city and suburbs were rather different, there were enough similarities to evoke many memories of that time for me. Her emphasis on Australia as not being quite good enough, dated and distant was very typical of the time though I don't recall those same sentiments myself. Although her father was a dedicated "New Australian", it may be that his American origins convinced her there was so much more elsewhere. As another who had penpals on the other side of the globe I enjoyed Brooks' search to locate her lost friends, and learn of their lives. It was ironic that her French penpal lived a far more circumscribed and parochial life than Brooks had in Sydney. As we get older I guess those of us who had penpals wonder what happened to them, and where they might be now. This book is one I reread regularly and always enjoy.more
This book describes Brooks' childhood in Sydney, and her attempts to reach outside of what she perceived as a provincial childhood through a series of pen-pals. In the later part of the book, she visits with the pen-pals as grown men and women.An interesting premise, but I didn't feel that Brooks went deep enough to be truly insightful. A book with a smaller scope and greater depth (for example about her conversion to Judaism, and how that related to her childhood in Sydney) would have been more interesting.However, it is interesting to see how, as a child, she viewed being Australian as second-rate and provinical and how that view kept her from seeing the richness of the country around her.more
I felt like the title and sub-title of this memoir were misleading, as I was expecting far more emphasis on the pen-pal relationships throughout, while, in reality, this was a more general memoir of Brooks' childhood, which included having a few pen-pals. This was followed by contacting these pen-pals in adulthood and catching up with them. I also didn't feel like the book necessary flowed well from my perspective. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't had an expectation on the contents based on the subtitle.more
The internet and e-mail have really taken a toll on letter writing. Now that we have instant gratification, we are losing out on the simple joy of opening the mailbox to find an unexpected or conversely eagerly awaited missive from a far away friend. Now we mostly find bills instead of handwritten personal thoughts. The closest we often get anymore is the fake "handwriting" font on some junk mail envelopes. This is such a shame. Letter writing is careful and slow and often brings great delight to the recipient. I know, because I still write letters (although not nearly as often as I used to) and I had many, many penpals from all over the world as I was growing up. I even still keep in touch with several of them, having been writing to them for almost 30 years now. Hearing from them way back when opened a new world to me, one that I didn't encounter in the many suburban neighborhoods we lived in throughout my childhood.Australian Geraldine Brooks grew up in a Sydney that she feared was provincial. Her lower middle class neighborhood was mocked as a representation of all that was boring and backwards about Australia. In order to broaden her horizons, taking after the example of her father, she started to write letters. Her first penpal, Sonny, was only just across town but could have lived a world away. After Sonny, Brooks chose penpals in countries that interested her. She wrote Joannie in America, intrigued by the country of her father's birth. She wrote Mishal in Israel because she was fascinated by Judaism. When she found out that Mishal was an Israeli Arab, she found another Israeli, this time a Jewish Israeli, Cohen, to add to her collection of penpals. And finally, enamoured of the student upheavals in France, she also wrote to Janine. Through all of these penpals, she learned more of the world. Twenty years later, during her father's final illness, she discovers the letters of these penpals and wonders where life has taken them. Like the journalist she is, she determines to discover their stories.Brooks has drawn the Australia of her childhood precisely and lovingly. She chronicles her own political awakening and leanings and their genesis very well. And she has created a full and extensive portrait of her correspondence with Joannie and with the social consciousness that both girls developed as they wrote back and forth. Her letters from the others are either less illuminating or she wasn't given permission to use as much from them since the sections about these penpals are not as full and lack the sprightly, in-depth personality that the portion about Joannie has. Once Brooks goes on her search for her lost penpals, she has an amazingly easy time of it finding them. The fact that all of them ultimately welcomed her in to see their lives now (well, ten years ago when the book was written anyway) is wonderful.I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir both for its portrayal of the disappeared Australia of Brooks' childhood and adolescence and for the tale of tracking down her former penpals to see where their lives had taken them. I had an Australian penpal as a child and young adult, a couple of decades after Brooks, and I'd love the chance to do as Brooks did and find her. Michelle Ennor, are you out there somewhere? In any case, Brooks's memoir captures the innocence of a younger Australia, uncovers the seeds of her own life choices, and shows how our early life shapes us as well as the ways in which we find ourselves yearning for a different future than we had ever envisioned.more
I wish I could say I liked this more. You've doubtless seen the premise: she's pursuing the far-flung penpals she wrote to while growing up in Australia in the 1960's and 1970's. Interspersing it with her growing-up years outside Sydney and her (US-born) father colorful early life as a singer.Problem is two-fold. First, most of the pals she finds--A French woman, now a contented housewife still living close to home and two male Israelis--one Jewish, one Arab Christian--aren't very interesting or articulate. Oh, neither is the Aussie, barely a pen pal, who became a club owner in NYC. The interesting one is the US girl who died of anorexia, but whose family Brooks has become very close to over the years.Second problem, it takes so long to get here while you know the life Brooks was leading as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East had to be much more interesting! I have already read a couple of books by her husband, Tony Horowitz. He's great but he was the trailing spouse while she must have been a WSJ hotshot. So she might be an even better writer, right? I dunno, but I will give her another chance. I think she wrote a book about the Middle East as well as a novel. I'd try the nonfiction first.more
Geraldine Brooks writes about her childhood in Sydney and longing to see the world. She recounts her long correspondence with Joanie in New York. She becomes a journalist and foreign corresondent, and locates the pen-pals of her youth. Gives a vivid picture of Australia in the 60's and 70's.more
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