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Foreign Correspondence [Paperback]

Geraldine Brooks
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: 9.48 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

31 Dec 1998
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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Foreign Correspondence + Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women + March: A Love Story in a Time of War
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Product details

  • Paperback: 217 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group; 1st Anchor Books Trade Pbk. Ed edition (31 Dec 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385483732
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385483735
  • Product Dimensions: 20.2 x 13.9 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 270,020 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Geraldine Brooks was born and raised in Australia. After moving to the USA 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. Her first novels 'A Year of Wonders' and 'March have become international bestsellers, the latter earning Brooks the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. She lives with her husband and son in rural Virginia and is currently a fellow at Harvard University.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
It is a hot spring day and I am in the basement of my parents' house in Sydney, sorting through tea chests. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent 12 Jan 2012
I loved this book. It was really enlightening. At first I didn't think I would like it after the author mentions her left wing views as I did not want to read a politicised, biased account of everything, however she did not let her views get in the way of her writing and I learnt so much about the countries she visited that I would never have learned from newspapers or travel books. The writing is based on human character and was eye-opening cancelling any pre-conceived ideas I may have had. Her family life as a child in Concorde, a suburb of Sydney, was eccentric and entertaining and made me laugh. I lived there when I first went to Australia and I must have walked around with my eyes shut as I did not meet any of the wonderful characters that she did but I wish I had! I can't tell you how much I enjoyed this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Story of a life, the times, and the cultures 29 April 2014
By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I came to this factual book by Geraldine Brooks hot on the heels of appreciation for her novel, People of the Book. Brooks, now a Virginia resident novelist, was in a prior existence a globe-trotting, wanderlust-filled journalist originally from Concord, a suburb of Sydney, New South Wales.

Born in the mid-50s, Brooks recounts growing up in a deeply entrenched culture where nothing really happened, Australians felt second-class parochial citizens, looking to the `mother country' with deep blue affiliations under Prime Minister Robert Menzies. The national anthem was even God Save The Queen. An underachieving, `don't be a tall poppy' syndrome was rife.

Brooks' parents clearly had wider horizons in their souls, and she and her elder sister were clearly going to be taller poppies.

Desperate to know something of worlds beyond, Brooks began a series of correspondences with pen pals, from before her teens. Fed by initially a fascination with Star Wars, and then later with emerging socialist, internationalist and artistic interests, she had penfriends from firstly, a classier suburb of Sydney, from the States (where she always wanted to be) two pen-pals from Israel, a Christian Arab and a Jew, and a French girl from a tiny village.

Although she stopped writing to all of them bar her fellow Trekkie fan, the American girl, whilst still in her teens, a chance discovery of all the letters some 30 years later, led her to revisit her childhood, the zeitgeist of the times and the place, and trace the development not just of her own identity, life and viewpoints, but also look at how Australia emerged as a taller poppy.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A very enjoyable book 14 Jan 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A very interesting memoir particularly from an Australian immigrants angle. The pen-pal characters were described clearly and really came to life.
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20 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful! 25 May 1999
By A Customer
Before I begin, I must admit that I live right next door to Geraldine in Virginia. Knowing her as a person probably has colored the way I read her book, but, honestly, I thought the book was wonderful. I read it all in one sitting because I could not put it down. It is interesting to see how writing letters as a child developed into her career, writing from faraway places for newspapers. I highly recommend it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.3 out of 5 stars  51 reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A quest to discover the world as well as discover herself 16 Sep 2001
By Linda Linguvic - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Australian born Geraldine Brooks spent many years as a foreign correspondent covering the Middle East. I loved her book, "Nine Parts of Desire" which was about Muslim women, and I have followed her life somewhat as she is often mentioned by her husband, Tony Horwitz, in his books "Confederates in the Attic", "Baghdad Without a Map," and "One for the Road." I find her an excellent reporter and in this memoir, "Foreign Correspondence," she turns the spotlight on herself.
As a child growing up in a lower middle class neighborhood on a street actually called "Bland Street", she yearned for a larger world. And so she developed pen pals. There was a girl from New Jersey, another one from France, and even one from an upper class neighborhood just a few towns away. And then there were two Israeli boys, one an Arab and one a Jew. As an adult, she found these old letters in her father's basement and, now more than twenty years later, she decided to look up each of these people. What follows is the result of her quest and some wonderful insights into world events from a personal one-on-one perspective. It was fascinating.
As a teenager in the early seventies she was aware of the new consciousness developing, even reaching her in her protective Catholic school. She had an active imagination and the gift of using words well. It's not surprising that she developed pen pals and that they influenced her life so much. Her gift of words certainly reached me too. I shared her sense of wonder and enthusiasm as she looked forward to each letter. I felt her straining to break the bonds of her loving but restrictive world. I felt her hopes and dreams and frustrations. And then, later, I shared her discoveries as she searched out the people who had meant so much to her early life. She writes with a clear voice, painting a picture with details, taking me on her quest to discover the world and eventually to discover herself. The book is short, a mere 210 pages but she sure does pack a lot into it. It's a wonderful read. Highly recommended.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book! 29 May 2000
By TexasGirl - Published on
I, too, am an Australian now living in the USA. I found many parallels between the author and myself. As a child growing up in Sydney, I had many, many penpals from the USA and Europe - I still remember the excitement of receiving letters from places far away (In fact, two of my penpals were at my American wedding and we are still in contact 2 decades later.) The book perfectly captures the essence of growing up in Australia and the sense of isolation one feels being so far from other countries. The author made me truly miss my homeland. I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn more about Australia and what makes its people tick - this book is a wonderful read.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great one for book clubs! 13 Aug 2002
By B. Bauer - Published on
I bought this as an "airplane read" but couldn't put it down. Geraldine Brooks has done us a great favor by not only illuminating the process of finding one's long lost penpals, but also by educating many folks about Australia in the process. It's fascinating to see her perceptions of the world, and particularly America, based on the letters that come in her mailbox each month.
While I read this one on my own, I have since leant this book to several friends and we've engaged in some interesting discussions about our own penpal experiences, so I recommend it for book clubs.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book 28 Aug 2000
By book lover - Published on
I read this book in one day - it is beautifully, intelligently written with well developed characters and a true story that reads like fiction. It is a rare gem of literature that provides insight into the dreams of a young girl that many people can identify with - male or female. I have read a lot of books lately, but this was one of the finest books I've come across in a while.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than you would think . . . 7 July 2000
By A Customer - Published on
I bought this book over a year ago and recently, when I saw it in paperback at my local store, I decided it was time I read it! I don't know why I demurred, because I found this book to be delightful! It is a slight volume that contains more information and humanity than you would think could be printed in these sparse pages. By that I mean we get a memoir spanning the author's family's lives (as well as her own) along with humanizing stories of her global pen pals, including updates. I thought it was quite interesting as a "prologue" to histories of the Middle East and Europe as well as the United States and Down Under. Geraldine Brooks is a good writer who says in a few words what many writers have written chapters about. For instance, "Scientists have discovered that all human beings have a "happiness set point" . . . Thus, the mood-altering effects of winning a Pulitzer or losing a spouse will rarely endure. Within a year, most people are again either the happy or morose persons they always were." And, "I wondered aloud whether our generation really did mark the end of the era when people thought they had to go away to prove themselves." Not to mention a complete description of the anorexia nervosa suffered by one of her pen pals, before anorexia was understood in any way by professionals or lay persons. Highly recommended to all who love an honest and thought-provoking memoir.
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