A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

by Xiaolu Guo

When a young Chinese woman, newly arrived in London, moves in with her English boyfriend, she decides its time to write a Chinese-English dictionary for lovers. Xiaolus first novel in English is an utterly original journey of self-discovery.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.49
  • Pages: 354
  • Publish Date: March 27th 2007 by Chatto & Windus
  • Isbn10: 0701180382
  • Isbn13: 9780701180386

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This is the semi-fictionalised diary of a 24 year old Chinese woman coming to London to learn English. Picture: Xiaolu as a new arrival in London in 2002, outside the Houses of Parliament (from The Guardian) Language It's written in broken English, which gradually improves. One I noted at the time I read it was that verbs don't have tenses in Chinese in the same way as English and many other languages, just regular prefixes and suffixes.

And this of course is why the woman was ultimately not interested in a romance with me, because she understood where these emotions of mine were coming from, that for me it was all about the experience and little to do with her in particular; and she knew this of course because she had done some international traveling herself in the past, and had had the exact same experience that I was going through, but in her case did end up getting romantically involved with the person in question, which of course ended in disaster a few months later, such a surety that you didn't even really need me to mention it. Like I said, it's a well-known story from the world of international travel, a situation that is tackled once again in the extremely delightful new novel A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, the first English-language book by Chinese-British author Xiaolu Guo, one that was short-listed for this year's Orange Prize and has gone on to become a surprise commercial hit.

(Rightly so!) One thing, even Shakespeare write bad English. Twenty-four-year-old Ms.Z travels from a small town/village in China to England to study English. The exposure to the European cultures are often funny, although she struggles to adapt to the new language and decadent lifestyle of her lover. While attending her language classes in England, she uses a notebook in which she dots down new words and ideas. This notebook becomes the mainstay of her journey through the new environment. She becomes a totally different person in a very short time and returns to China with a new independence.

Things I liked: 1)The title of this book, which is named after an actual Chinese to English dictionary. But like other reviews I've read before starting this book, I couldn't sympathize with Z very much because 2)Z mentions to her lover that in China, nobody's really lonely. I could believe this if she didn't carry other things instilled in her from China, like how the man should pay for everything & the concept of loneliness and privacy, etc. That's why I liked the couple times she simply wrote in Chinese (which is translated on the next page) because it was an opportunity to read what she may really be like, that she can't express, but on those occasions, she writes very short paragraphs about the same thing: her lover, 4)who is not easy to like either, but can be understood. It's worth reading, and it's easy to read after I got familiar with her missing articles and written "accent." And she reminded me of my family sometimes, like the moon-calendar-birthdays and making up new ones and I laughed at how subtle the "female massager" instructions were and the difference between "pumas" & "pomas"; "Chanel No. 5" & "Chanel No. 6".

Xiaolu Guo writes in a beautiful, arresting way. I feel like Xiaolu Guo is an author who really doesn't get the attention she deserves.

Because in A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers she creates a real humdinger of an impossible love: a 24-year-old Chinese woman with limited English plus a 40-something English man with limited empathy. Heres the thing about impossible loves: we cant stop believing theyre possible. And yet, Zhuang continues to fill the pages of her journal with discussions of her love and we continue to turn the pages. Zhuang writes English in her journal daily and makes slow progress until she meets her lover. All these tenses mean Love is time-limited thing. Love is existence, holding past and future. Whatever the answer, Zhuang learns that its not love.