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Foreign Correspondence: A Pen Pal's Journey from Down Under to All Over

by Geraldine Brooks

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3821947,525 (3.7)43
Born in Sydney's western suburbs in the late 1950s, the young Geraldine Brooks longs to discover the vivid places where she believes history and culture are made. Penfriends from the Middle East, France and America offer her the window she craves on life beyond Australia's isolated backyard. With the aid of their letters, Brooks turns her bedroom into the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, the barricades of Parisian student protests and the swampy fields of an embattled kibbutz. Twenty years later and worlds away from her sheltered girlhood, Brooks is an award-winning foreign correspondent covering war and famine. Still intrigued by the foreign correspondents of her adolescence, she embarks on a human treasure hunt in Israel, France and the US to find them. Brooks discovers men and women whose lives have been shaped by war and hatred, by fame and notoriety, and by the ravages of mental illness. Foreign Correspondence is an intimate, moving and often humorous memoir of growing up in Australia in the 1960s that speaks directly to the heart of everyone who ever yearned to become a citizen of the world.… (more)

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» See also 43 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
Brooks started writing to pen pals when she was ten years old. Finding all of Brooks's pen pal letters prompted her to wonder if she could find their authors some thirty some odd years later. Where were these forty-something year olds? Who were they now as adults and what lives were they living? Before she launches on her journey to find lost relations, Brooks spends some time remembering her own childhood and how each pen pal played a part in it. As a kid she yearned to get away from boring Australia with its lack of culture and panache. As a good girl, she recalls her fear of her father's lack of participation in Catholic worship and how it might send him to hell and yet she herself wanted to be a rebel; "to kiss boys, take drugs, be hauled by the hair into a police van at an antiwar protest" (p 78). She remembers wanting to expand her religious horizons with the letters she would write and receive. Those pen pals would bring Brooks full circle by reminding her of her roots and just how far she has come as an adult. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Sep 9, 2019 |
Foreign Correspondence – Geraldine Brooks
3 stars
Foreign Correspondence is a memoir of Geraldine Brook’s childhood in Australia. She describes how she sought to expand the horizons of her suburban environment by corresponding with pen pals in several countries. As an adult she reflects on the ways her early letter writing was a factor leading to her career as a journalist and war correspondent. In the last third of the book, Brooks recounts her efforts to meet her former pen pals as adults.
This was a pleasant, insightful memoir. Brooks did a good job of tying the individual stories of her various pen pals together. I was reminded of the episodic structure of People of the Book.
( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
Great memoir of growing up on 'Bland' street in Sydney, Australia and dreaming of more exciting places. Of acquiring foreign pen-pals and later as an adult seeking out those old childhood pen-friends.
  MissItaly | Jan 28, 2016 |
This book is so much more than simply a story about penfriends - Brooks weaves her personal narrative and childhood obsessions in with her story, to show why she sought the particular penpals she wrote to. I enjoyed reading this a lot and it makes me want to pull out the stationery and write to my friends once again - a feeling I haven't had in a while. ( )
  olegalCA | Dec 9, 2014 |
I enjoyed this peek at Brooks's life. She tells of her childhood feeling isolated in Sydney, longing for adventure and travel. She satisfies a little of that longing by obtaining pen pals in America, France, and Israel. As an adult, after becoming a news correspondent and traveling the world, she finds a stack of her old pen pal letters in her parents' home and decides to look up the pen pals and finally meet them.

It's an interesting tale of the twists and turns life takes, and how our childhood fantasies and preconceptions can be fulfilled or proved wrong. Brooks has had an amazing life and she has a great talent for sharing her experiences. I recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of Geraldine Brooks or interested in travel writing or journalism. ( )
  glade1 | Dec 9, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
Foreign Correspondence by Geraldine Brooks who was born and raised in Australia. After moving to the U.S.A. she worked for eleven years on the Wall Street Journal, covering stories from some of the world’s most troubled areas, including Bosnia, Somalia and the Middle East.
“Foreign Correspondenece is not about her work but about her childhood and her teen age years in Australia and the way she enlisted pen pals who offered her a window on the world and on other cultures and different history.
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Epigraph
... nothing is more sweet in the end than

country and parents ever,

even when far away one lives in a fertile place...

- The Odyssey
Dedication
To the memory of Lawrie, and to Gloria
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It is a hot spring day and I am in the basement of my parents’ house in Sydney, sorting through tea chests.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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