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

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  2,101 ratings  ·  292 reviews
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 fi ...more
Paperback, 217 pages
Published January 19th 1999 by Anchor Books (first published December 29th 1997)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  2,101 ratings  ·  292 reviews

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Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
Foreign Correspondence was my first Geraldine Brooks book, and I immediately fell in love with the writing style that earned her a Pulitzer Prize for March and People of the Book.

In this 200 page packed memoir, Brooks writes about growing up in Sydney, Australia and how having pen pals both local and international shaped her view of the world. She writes that hers was the last generation to live in an isolated Australia. Everyone finished university and for the most part left. Brooks' pen pals
I am gradually coming round to accepting the fact that memoirs are not my thing. Even when written by Geraldine Brookswho is one of my favourite authors - of fiction! Sadly I found this book to be quite uninteresting. I would have liked more of the authors experiences as a foreign correspondent and less about her pen pals who were not a very exciting bunch really. My fault for reading a memoir when I know I don't like them. I'll go back to sticking to just fiction and reminding myself that this ...more
Foreign Correspondence by foreign correspondent Geraldine Brooks was a delightful memoir about her childhood in Sydney, Australia and dreaming of the world beyond her existence in the working class neighborhood on the west side. On one of her trips home to see her ailing father, while in the basement of her parent's home going through her father's correspondence, Brooks came across a packet of her childhood letters with her pen pal friends throughout the world during the 1960's and 1970's that h ...more
What to expect? Author's family background, pen-pal'ing as a youth, a bit of her later life followed by tracking down some penpals after decades, rounding out with her recent (as book went to press) family update.

In a nutshell, it's well-written, but I never felt fully engaged, but picked it up each time to get through it; wasn't ever tempted to DNF though. Mileage may vary here, but I didn't particularly like her or her father. The whole thing was, overall, just... there. Strongest feature was
In Foreign Correspondence Geraldine Brooks reflects on her seemingly bland Sydney childhood enlivened by correspondence with her exotic pen pals - in a more exciting part of Sydney and in the USA, Israel and France. Years later, she catches up with her former pen pals and their families, after her own exciting career as a foreign correspondent, marriage and motherhood, and her move to the States. Brooks uses her past childhood correspondence and the dissonance between her imagination and the rea ...more
Dec 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
When you read a book by Geraldine Brooks, you know you are in the hands of a master. In Foreign Correspondence, she not only gives a typical memoir, but she adds the twist of looking up her childhood penpals. Most memoirs with a twist or angle, really feel forced, but Ms. Brooks's does not. Largely because of how important her pen pals were in her childhood.

While growing up in staid suburban Sydney, Geraldine felt closed-in, restricted, and boring. Despite being surrounded by immigrants and refu
As a long time pen-pal, I was excited for this one. The storyline was a bit scattershot, vacillating between current and past, with a strange tie in to her father's illness and references to his pen-pals that didnt quite jive when, at the end, the truth all came out. (Her father's illness is the catalyst for her seeking the past it seems, when she finds old letters in the basement).

I have to admit that it seems far fetched that this one girl from working class Sydney would herself become a renow
Feb 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This was an amazing tale of growing up as an Australian baby boomer, seeing the world through the eyes of her pen pals. I enjoyed her descriptions of how Australia changed during the 60's and 70's. How it grew from an English outpost to a country of its own, with pride in its culture, art and literature.

Brooks is a vivid narrator. As she travels to the homes of her childhood pen pals, you're in the vehicle with her. You feel her anticipation as she nears each one, experience her hopes that they
Lyn Elliott
It took me a while to get into this book, as it felt like another exploration of early life with parents, who were my parents etc, and it comes nowhere near the richness of Poppy in that regard.
But once Brooks got on to writing about penfriends, and especially her journeys as an adult to meet the people with whom she corresponded as a child and teenager, the book took off for me. Lively and astute; interesting people and observations on Australia, France, Israel and the US.
I'd give it 3.5.
Jun 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
I really liked "Year of Wonders" and had high hopes for this book. You'd think that a book titled "Foreign Correspondence: A Pen Pal's Journey from Down Under to All Over" would be centered around exactly this - penpalling. Unfortunately, penpalling plays just a side-note to the author's reminiscences of her parents, her childhood and teenager years in an unspectacular Sydney neighborhood, and finally her travels as a journalist. The first part of the book in particular was extremely disappointi ...more
Grada (BoekenTrol)
The first part was nice, but rather hard to plunge into. I would want to compare it to a steam engine that needs time to gain speed. Geraldine describes her youth, the dull (in her eyes) world of Sydney, at the end of the world.
When Geraldine grew older, her world grows and her writing takes the reader along. Finding friends to write to, growing up, go to work and finally going to look for the pals she wrote to in her youth.
The more pages I truned, the more interesting, recognizable it became.
Nov 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
I was recommending this book before I was half way through I was so captivated. There's something about the yearning of a young girl, wanting to break out, explore, described with love and care by the adult version. I loved the pen pal journeys, loved the family relations, as well as getting an insight into Australia in the '60s and onwards. It was beautiful to see Geraldine's journey regarding her own viewpoints, challenged by the range of pen pals she had.

Highly recommend, and wish I had list
May 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
When I was a child, I had pen pals. My mother always warned me that one day one of them would show up at our door. That didn't happen. Geraldine Brooks, though, goes in search of her pen pals years after the letters stopped coming. As a girl she had imagined warriors and utopians, Broadway stars and astronauts, culture mavens and adventurers. What she finds is something quite different. And in the process she reveals the influences that shaped her own journey, and raises some interesting questio ...more
Apr 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
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. ...more
Oct 20, 2012 rated it did not like it
I think that the book was poorly written and not fun to read. I did not like it, because it was very slow, and a bit boring.
May 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Loved. What a gem.
Transporting. Enlightening. Provocative. Wise. And in the end, truly delightful.
Geraldine Brooks is a true craftsman of the written word.
May 08, 2021 rated it liked it
Interesting story, I don't like when facts about Israel are mis-stated. ...more
Aug 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: australia, travel
When I was a teenager, I had two penfriends in France, one in New Zealand and one in South Africa, and my sister had a penfriend in one of the new black South African homelands. I still enjoy writing and receiving long letters, but nowadays I only write one long letter a year which I send to all our friends and family at Christmastime. So it's quite disappointing that most people only send us an impersonal Christmas card. Apart from that I keep in contact with Facebook, and that is another good ...more
Aug 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really like Geraldine Brooks's historical fiction. After reading all four of her works of fiction, I found myself becoming more curious about her background as a foreign correspondent. This work of nonfiction combined snippets of information on her career with biographical information and stories of her international pen pals. She deftly captured what is was like to grow up in 1960s and 1970s Australia and how this impacted her intellectual and political development. It provided some context f ...more
Susan Sherwin
Jul 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is a compelling, wonderful memoir. As an adolescent in suburban Sydney, Australia, Geraldine Brooks began a life-long fascination with other cultures and people across the world. To quench her curiosity and expand her horizons, she corresponded with pen-pals in the Middle East, Europe, and America. Then, twenty years later, after Brooks had worked as a reporter for the The Sydney Morning Herald,, had completed a masters in journalism on scholarship at Columbia University, and had married an ...more
Aug 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: people
In Geraldine Brooks' memoir, she recounts her childhood in 1950's/60's Sydney, Australia. At that time she felt very isolated from the world and wanted to meet new people and learn about other cultures. She takes up writing to pen-pals in far away countries. When she became an adult and started working she found that she didn't have much to write letters and lost touch with her pen-pals. Many years later she finds the old letters and decides to travel around the world and find out what happened ...more
Aug 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Geraldine Brooks is one of my favorite authors, so when I stumbled over this one by her that I had somehow missed, I was thrilled. It is a memoir of her 1950s and 60s childhood in Australia, where she and her family lived in a couple of suburbs on the western edge of Sydney, definitely not a fashionable address. She decides to seek out pen pals in far-flung places in order to discover how others her age are living around the world, and this key event in her life resonates right through to the pr ...more
Feb 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book made me think about my penpals from childhood. I had a penpal from France when I was 13. Even though it was only 17 years ago, I can still remember how far away and unknowable she seemed. I still remember the graphing paper she wrote on and her (what I now know to be) distinctly French handwriting. I wonder if this book will hold up. It seems like the world has grown so much smaller since the internet became what it now is. I don't think people all that much younger than I am can relat ...more
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Excellent read. Thoroughly enjoyable and relatable. As someone who enjoys writing letters, this story has made me want to find pen pals from faraway and remote places.
The author has led an interesting life, and the sections about her travels to war torn and famine afflicted counties during her stint as a foreign correspondence were really interesting. Her journey to find her pen pals from over twenty years ago was an incredible feat, but considering she's a reporter, I guess her investigative sk
Deborah aka Reading Mom
Oct 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
Great book. I don't always enjoy memoirs, but I have liked Geraldine Brooks as a writer for many years and thought this might be a nice read. It was. I liked getting to know her better as a person and she wrote with the usual attention to detail that she does with her fiction writing. The descriptions of places she visited to get in touch with her now adult pen pals made me feel as though I was traveling with her, especially her descriptions of Israel. Having been there myself, I could smell the ...more
Jessie Weaver
Mar 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
I’ve now read all of Brooks’ books except for Nine Parts of Desire … and I have loved every one. This one is a memoir of Brooks’ growing-up years, told through pen-pal letters and friendships with kids all over the world. As an adult, Brooks found the letters and took it upon herself to find all of her lost pen-pals. As with all of her books, this one is well-researched and documented, vivid, and makes me long to see, smell, and taste each part of the world she describes.
Vivien Simon
Jan 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
great writer

When I bought this book, it did not immediately imply to me that it was biographical. Just because it was by Geraldine Brooks, simply I bought it. This was a most surprising and enjoyable biography. Glad to have read it, this story reaffirmed how much pleasure this talented and clever writer seems to provide me with. If you like biographies, this is a charming view of a talented author's life. Highly recommended.
Emily Blodgett
Jan 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
A wonderful autobiography from one of my favorite authors. Brooks tells her story through her delight in collecting and writing to her pen pals-- her way of learning about the world from what she thinks is a boring backwater in suburban Sydney. She uses her platform as a journalist later in life to track down those very people who opened her eyes as a teenager. I mourn the loss of real letter writing and receiving in my life!
May 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Geraldine Brooks uses a lovely framework for her memoir. She looks back to a time when she was a pen pal to a number of contemporaries around the world, a time she also sought a bigger world for herself. After a career as a reporter and war correspondent, she revisits the long-distance acquaintances. What results is a thoughtful reverie on place, family, ambition and contentment. A nice change of pace in the genre. It makes me wonder what kind of storytelling happened in Brooks' reporting. ...more
Dec 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
I love Geraldine Brooks as an author and I enjoyed her memoir about growing up in Australia and her relationship with her family and her pen pals. It was a quick and mostly interesting read. It is fascinating for me to read an author for years without knowing much about them and discover a book like this that tells her story.
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Australian-born Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist who grew up in the Western suburbs of Sydney, and attended Bethlehem College Ashfield and the University of Sydney. She worked as a reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald for three years as a feature writer with a special interest in environmental issu

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