I just wanted to share my excitement about the imminent publication of Geraldine Brooks’ new book, Caleb’s Crossing.
Geraldine’s particular passion is for bringing to vivid life shards of little known history. With Year of Wonders we were all instantly transported to the terror and the marvel that was the English plague of the mid-seventeenth century. In People of the Book she illuminated the Jewish world going back through the centuries, and in March, for which she won the Pulitzer Prize, she gave us a compelling alternative view on Little Women.
I am only about a third of the way through my proof of Caleb’s Crossing, and I haven’t yet sighted a finished copy. So far it has proved itself to be beautifully written, measured in pace, nourishing to the imagination and utterly compelling to read.
As to the theme, it puts me in mind of some other great Australian novelists who have so recreated that clash of civilisation brought about when a colonising force comes face to face with first people – Kate Grenville’s Secret River, Richard Flanagan’s Wanting, and most recently (and probably most authentically) Kim Scott’s That Deadman Dance. As an aside, it is fascinating to read an Australian’s take (albeit she probably has dual citizenship by now) to an American story.
In the meantime, go here to read Brooks’ answers to our Ten Terrifying Questions.
As for her fascinating forays into non-fiction, try Nine Parts of Desire.
Geraldine Brooks spent six years covering the Middle East through wars, insurrections, and the volcanic upheaval of resurgent fundamentalism. Yet for her, headline events were only the backdrop to a less obvious but more enduring drama: the daily life of Muslim women. Nine Parts of Desire is the story of Brooks’ intrepid journey toward an understanding of the women behind the veils, and of the often contradictory political, religious, and cultural forces that shape their lives. Defying our stereotypes about the Muslim world, Brooks’ acute analysis of the world’s fastest growing religion deftly illustrates how Islam’s holiest texts have been misused to justify repression of women, and how male pride and power have warped the original message of a once liberating faith
In Foreign Correspondence, Geraldine Brooks longs to discover the vivid places where she believes history and culture are made. Penfriends from the Middle East, France and America offer her the window she craves on life beyond Australia’s isolated backyard. With the aid of their letters, Brooks turns her bedroom into the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, the barricades of Parisian student protests and the swampy fields of an embattled kibbutz. Twenty years later and worlds away from her sheltered girlhood, Brooks is an award-winning foreign correspondent covering war and famine. Still intrigued by the foreign correspondents of her adolescence, she embarks on a human treasure hunt in Israel, France and the US to find them.