Correspondents is a hefty, multi-generational saga ... Nabil is a subtly drawn and engaging character who is condemned, like thousands of similar well-educated, middle-class Iraqis, to almost unendurable tragedy. The moral centre of the novel, however, is the manifestly flawed Rita, whose narrative arc in many respects mirrors that of the US invasion itself, founded on an aggressively idealistic yet ultimately false set of assumptions about a region and its people ... it’s clear that what Murphy understands best is the obsessive mindset of an unrepentant deadline-junkie[.]
... fast-paced ... Murphy draws his characters with warmth and compassion, emphasizing their deep love for family ... The geopolitical dramas of the early 2000s and the actions in the Middle East by American leaders make the book even more relevant to present-day realities. But the novel's true strength is its cast of vivid, flawed, deeply human characters, who struggle and make mistakes, and do their best to work for good in uncertain, even dangerous, times.
... having snared his readers, Murphy makes them wait several hundred pages before resuming the party and revealing the destructive agenda of its gatecrasher.
Such a strategy is not easy for the author to pull off. Fortunately, what unfolds between Murphy’s provocative opener and shock denouement is deeply immersive and intensely powerful ... Murphy’s sharply realised focus is the effects of war, migration and refugeehood on people ... Correspondents is an expansive, multigenerational epic, rich in empathy and insight ... The long, detailed sections that shadow Rita in Lebanon and Iraq are by far the most compelling. Rita is rendered vividly alive in those pages and her exploits and observations read like a blend of carefully controlled drama and well-crafted reportage. These sections are so captivating that Murphy’s later, closing chapters in the US resemble a tacked-on coda rather than a topped-and-tailed conclusion ... As with many long stories, Correspondents is flabby in places. Some scenes drag on and one or two characters outstay their welcome. But for the most part, Murphy keeps everything in proportion, right down to Rita’s succinct point about the Iraq war.
Unlike most Iraq war novels, this work delves deeply into the lives of Iraqi civilians and the toll the invasion has taken on their families, their careers, and society at large. It also provides an interesting look into the high-pressure world of journalism. Unfortunately, Murphy's ambition gets the best of him in the lengthy prefatory history of both Rita's and Nabil's families, ultimately diluting the more powerful aspects of the novel ... Distinctive in his look at Iraq, Murphy can also be strident as he touches upon foreign intervention, gun control, Far Right conspiracy theorists, the taboo of being gay in the Middle East and much more. How readers view the book may depend on how they feel about these issues themselves.
The latest by the author of Christodora (2016) is a multigenerational saga that insists upon the potential, even the necessity, of cross-cultural relationships while highlighting their challenges ... early chapters about Rita’s heritage swell with affectionate detail. But the geographic and cultural canvas of this work is much larger, and its message of empathy and respect for cultural nuance aims at an audience as big as America itself.
In this ambitious but schematically plotted novel...Rita is well-developed as a character, but as her and her family and friends’ lives progress through decades punctuated by...issues—including war, gay coming-of-age, racism, and domestic gun violence—they seem less to be participants in history than hostages to it. Murphy’s authorial voice also frequently intrudes in the narrative, as when he uses Arabic words for foods and then immediately explains them in English. The resulting story comes across as more instructive than immersive.
... [a] finely tuned, well-researched novel ... the novel is infused with the complexities of Arabic language and culture; well-turned depictions of life in Baghdad, Damascus, and Beirut; and scenes capturing the anxiety and drudgery of war reporting. (Only a paranoid American bigot, introduced late in the book, feels relatively flimsy.) For all its wealth of detail, the novel is propulsive and engrossing and rooted in the simplest of storytelling points: Empathy can erase prejudice. From Rita and Nabil’s friendship to the family relationships that unwittingly shaped their lives, Murphy delivers a fresh, affecting restatement of that time-honored message. A surprisingly moving war novel alert to global violence and politics but thriving on the character level.