These six finely-crafted short stories address issues of identity and prejudice and of guilt and embarrassment. The stories in this collection – serious, satirical and humorous – also explore in a nuanced way the continuing role played by class and status in our everyday lives. Since the stories in Foreign Correspondence encompass a panoply of human situations, every reader will be able to relate to or be challenged by the characters they encounter.
JCB, a novella in the Bildungsroman tradition, asks the reader to reflect on their perception of others and on their capacity to empathise with those to whom they have close blood ties but from whom they are culturally distant. This story also points to the moral contingency of ascribing guilt and illustrates how the outwardly conventional can be deceptive.
The second story gives the book its title and describes the journey of a philandering young man, who, in contrast to the final story, is devoid of any sense of self-discovery and shame. The central character appears to be selfish and narcissistic and seeks atonement without remorse through the writing of letters.
Penultimate Skirmish is a tale, both satirical and pathetic, of an elderly couple whose lives are profoundly transformed as a result of paying a visit to the husband’s medical consultant.
Thuggery in the Public Interest lampoons the final stage in the process faced by every traveller at an airport before being allowed to embark on their journey.
The Contract, The Tenant and the Key is a humorous story about a couple who find themselves in a position to realise their dream of owning a property abroad. While for them the journey is just a step in the unilineal evolution of their lives, for someone else, who becomes part of that journey, their purchase has a life-changing impact.
The final story, From Mackeson to Macôn, is a vignette on the timeless subject as told by Turgenev in his Fathers and Children. It blends memory with the feelings of shame and unspoken love felt by a child towards a parent.