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

by Geraldine Brooks

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4352158,798 (3.74)44
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.… (more)
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» See also 44 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
nonfiction/sort of memoir
same lyrical quality to the prose that I enjoy in Brooks' fiction, but the first 2 chapters lacked a strong narrative. This would probably make a better "slow" read, which I'm not in the mindset for right now--am too easily distracted. ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 3, 2021 |
I really enjoyed this--reading the first part with Brooks growing up in Sydney, dreaming of an exciting bigger world, and then the second part in which she meets her pen pals about 25 years later, finds out who they really are (as opposed to who she made them out to be when she was young and corresponding with them). The chapter in Israel fascinated me-- ( )
  giovannaz63 | Jan 18, 2021 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (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
First words
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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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.

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