Foreign Correspondence: A Pen Pal's Journey From Down Under To All Over by Geraldine BrooksForeign Correspondence: A Pen Pal's Journey From Down Under To All Over by Geraldine Brooks

Foreign Correspondence: A Pen Pal's Journey From Down Under To All Over

byGeraldine Brooks

Paperback | January 31, 1999

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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.
Geraldine Brooks is the author of four novels, the Pulitzer Prize–winning Marchand the international bestsellers Caleb’s Crossing, People of the Book, and Year of Wonders. She has also written the acclaimed nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. Her most recent novel, Caleb’s Crossing, was the winner of the N...
Title:Foreign Correspondence: A Pen Pal's Journey From Down Under To All OverFormat:PaperbackDimensions:240 pages, 8 × 5.4 × 0.6 inPublished:January 31, 1999Publisher:Knopf Doubleday Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0385483732

ISBN - 13:9780385483735


Bookclub Guide

1. Discuss Brooks' choice to structure the book in two parts, and not to tell the story in straight chronology. What are the benefits of these choices? Are there any drawbacks?2. In what ways did the geography of place affect Brooks?3. Brooks was an outsider, a loner, an observer--as shown by events ranging from her childhood rheumatic fever, which often separated her from schoolmates, to living "down under," to coming of age on the cusp of the feminist movement. Is this feeling of "otherness" essential to a writer? To this writer?4. Brooks writes, "In every urban family's history, there is a generation that loses its contact with the land." Do you think there is more dissonance between the generations that are on either side of this loss than there is to generations further away from it? Can you pinpoint the time in your family history where your family lost contact with the land? How has it affected your family?5. Australians have an instinctual need to leave their island and explore the world. Discuss this as a theme in Brooks' memoir.6. Australian men have a deep and particular relationship with their male friends, their mates, as described by Brooks and others. Compare and contrast this with the idea of women's friendships in the United States, which are often cited as different and deeper than men's friendships.7. Discuss Brooks' religious upbringing and why you think she converted to Judaism. Did her childhood experiences foreshadow the conversion to come?8. Brooks comes to a gradual realization that Australia is not so small a place after all. How does this compare or contrast with American myths of exploration and home?9. In what ways does the Australian "Cultural Cringe" syndrome mirror the more personal cringe that many children, especially teens, feel about their parents and their brothers or sisters?10. Brooks writes that she "had more years of shared confidences with Joannie than with any of my mates in Sydney." Would their relationship have been less important if they had not developed it through writing only? In what ways? In your experience, does the act of writing letters make a friendship stronger?11. Do you think e-mail has changed the pen pal experience for kids? In what ways?12. Assume you have to choose one or the other, which is preferable--to grow up in a restricted environment with no car, with no travel, and with curfews and strict limits? Or to travel widely and experience many different cultures and have more responsibility and opportunity at an earlier age? Talk about the benefits and drawbacks of each.13. Discuss Brooks' identification with Joannie--her observation that she's living the life Joannie was meant to lead.14. Does Brooks follow or disregard (personally and professionally) the advice she received from a veteran correspondent, "Never get in the middle. You have to choose your side." How does the author feel about the middle?15. When Brooks is in the French village of St. Martin, visiting Janine, do you suspect that she will ultimately identify so strongly with her?16. Brooks confesses that she felt an "inevitability" about leaving Australia. Do you also think it's inevitable that she'll go back and live in Australia with her husband and son?17. Brooks' father kept secrets from her for a long time. How might she have felt if she learned about her father's other daughter at an earlier age? Do you think he made the right choice in keeping it from her for so long?18. Talk about the "happiness set point." In what ways do you essentially agree with or question this theory of human behavior?

From Our Editors

Like many young girls who long for news beyond their small worlds, Geraldine Brooks wrote to pen pals all over the globe from her home in Sydney, Australia. In the novel Foreign Correspondence, Brooks tracks down the girlhood friends who opened her eyes to adolescent life in the Middle East, Europe and America. After trekking through Israeli moshavim to Manhattan nightclubs, Brooks turns up men and women whose lives have been touched by war, fame, and mental illness. This is a touching and witty memoir of a young woman who never stopped wanting to know more about the world.

Editorial Reviews

"Geraldine Brooks' talent is unique: she combines the hardest-hitting reporting with a true writer's sensitivity and an empathy rare for anyone. In Foreign Correspondence she trains her lucid gaze on the turmoil of female adolescence and by doing so brings us a dazzling range of insights that extend beyond introspection to raise questions about national identity in an increasingly global culture."--Naomi Wolf, author of PromiscuitiesFrom the Hardcover edition.