Geraldine Brooks's memoir Foreign Correspondence is an exploration of Brooks's cultural cringe, her youthly yearnings for worldliness and a later appreciation for her suburban upbringing in Sydney.
Letters to - and later meetings with - correspondents in the Middle East, France, America and Sydney provide the foundation for her memoir, allowing for introspective reflection on the beliefs she held during her adolescence and then later as an adult.
Brooks's own conflicts with Australian society remain a centerpiece for her memoir. She laments her childhood not being in alignment with the stereotypical image of Australia as a place with the postcard beauty of the dramatic coast and the lonely drama of the outback. She seems disheartened that her earliest memories were not a mirror of the idyllic "harbour that now so dominates my image of the city".
As soon as I began reading Foreign Correspondence, I felt some of my attitudes towards Australian culture being articulated - even ones I never knew existed. Although Brooks is highly cynical at times, her own cultural cringe is entirely fair. She invites us to reflect critically upon Australian culture. Rather than breeding complacency, Brooks maintains that Australia is merely beginning to find its own national identity and still continues to act as a derivative of England or America.
Brooks's memoir is an interesting read. While not all of her experiences are shared by her readership, the values that underpin her beliefs about and views of humanity are ones that individuals can come to appreciate.
Brooks's experiences with pen pals and her work as a foreign correspondent throughout her life might leave readers feeling unaccomplished, but her wordliness and experience certainly makes for an enjoyable (and enviable) read!
4 out of 5