Book cover of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

by Xiaolu Guo

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Pages: 304
Paperback
ISBN: 9780307278401






Available to Buy

Overview of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

Language and love collide in this inventive novel of a young Chinese woman's journey to the West and her attempts to understand the language, and the man, she adores.Zhuang – or “Z,” to tongue-tied foreigners – has come to London to study English, but finds herself adrift, trapped in a cycle of cultural gaffes and grammatical mishaps. Then she meets an Englishman who changes everything, leading her into a world of self-discovery. She soon realizes that, in the West, “love” does not always mean the same as in China, and that you can learn all the words in the English language and still not understand your lover. And as the novel progresses with steadily improving grammar and vocabulary, Z's evolving voice makes her quest for comprehension all the more poignant. With sparkling wit, Xiaolu Guo has created an utterly original novel about identity and the cultural divide.

Synopsis of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

Language and love collide in this inventive novel of a young Chinese woman's journey to the West and her attempts to understand the language, and the man, she adores.Zhuang – or “Z,” to tongue-tied foreigners – has come to London to study English, but finds herself adrift, trapped in a cycle of cultural gaffes and grammatical mishaps. Then she meets an Englishman who changes everything, leading her into a world of self-discovery. She soon realizes that, in the West, “love” does not always mean the same as in China, and that you can learn all the words in the English language and still not understand your lover. And as the novel progresses with steadily improving grammar and vocabulary, Z's evolving voice makes her quest for comprehension all the more poignant. With sparkling wit, Xiaolu Guo has created an utterly original novel about identity and the cultural divide.

Publishers Weekly

A young woman from rural China learns how to comprehend "love" and "heartbreak" in English in this quirky, touching novel. Zhuang, or "Z" to tongue-tied foreigners, arrives in London at age 23 after being dispatched by her parents to get an education. Her immersion and painful education are laid bare to readers, who witness Z's vocabulary, grammar and understanding blossom throughout her diarylike account, sped along by an intense romance with a man met at the cinema. Her consuming love begins promisingly, but her failure to interpret her lover's lifestyle as a hippie drifter (who's 20 years her senior) alerts readers to potential trouble in paradise, even while such a notion remains beyond Z's not-yet-jaded imagination. The novel overflows with gentle jokes about culture shock and language barriers including Z's inability to understand why Brits bother talking about the weather when it's obvious-but there are deeper observations beneath the humor. Z's comically earnest exploration of a sex shop illuminates the pathos of Western seediness, and her encounters with men reveal both the exploitative and meaningful sides of romance. Z's unique, evolving voice fits perfectly for a heroine whose naïveté is matched by a willingness to relay the truth. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

About the Author, Xiaolu Guo

XIAOLU GUO was born in 1973. After graduating from the Beijing Film Academy, she published a number of books in China. Since 2002, she has been dividing her time between London and Beijing. She has written and directed award-winning documentaries including The Concrete Revolution; her first feature film, How Is Your Fish Today?, was screened at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2007 International Women’s Film Festival. A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, her third novel, is the first book she has written directly in English; it was short-listed for the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction.

Reviews of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

There are no reviews yet. Perhaps you can add one!

Editorials

Publishers Weekly

A young woman from rural China learns how to comprehend "love" and "heartbreak" in English in this quirky, touching novel. Zhuang, or "Z" to tongue-tied foreigners, arrives in London at age 23 after being dispatched by her parents to get an education. Her immersion and painful education are laid bare to readers, who witness Z's vocabulary, grammar and understanding blossom throughout her diarylike account, sped along by an intense romance with a man met at the cinema. Her consuming love begins promisingly, but her failure to interpret her lover's lifestyle as a hippie drifter (who's 20 years her senior) alerts readers to potential trouble in paradise, even while such a notion remains beyond Z's not-yet-jaded imagination. The novel overflows with gentle jokes about culture shock and language barriers including Z's inability to understand why Brits bother talking about the weather when it's obvious-but there are deeper observations beneath the humor. Z's comically earnest exploration of a sex shop illuminates the pathos of Western seediness, and her encounters with men reveal both the exploitative and meaningful sides of romance. Z's unique, evolving voice fits perfectly for a heroine whose naïveté is matched by a willingness to relay the truth. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Library Journal

This first English-language novel from Guo, who has written two other novels and is also a filmmaker, is a sometimes sad and sometimes funny tale of one young Chinese woman's attempt to learn a foreign language and assimilate into Western culture when she goes to London to study English. Zhuang's first lesson in the West is that no one can pronounce her name correctly, and she decides to call herself just "Z" in order to avoid awkward conversations about it. Every experience is new for Z, the daughter of factory owners in rural China, and she dutifully records each new word or idea in the journal she carries as religiously as her dictionary. Her confusion is compounded when she meets a man who quickly becomes her live-in lover. Z soon realizes that her ideas about love and sex may not be like those of her Western counterparts, and her naïveté leads Z into a few dangerous situations. But as her knowledge of the language grows, so does her maturity. An engrossing tale written with the novel approach of having the narrator's English growing increasingly better as the book progresses, this is recommended for most public libraries.
—Leann Restaino

Kirkus Reviews

A young Chinese woman travels to London on a student visa and falls in love with a much older English bachelor. New in town and eager to learn English so she can better help her family run their shoe factory back in rural China, lonely 23-year-old Zhuang ("Z") meets her unnamed 40-something lover at an artsy German film. The attraction between them is immediate, but it is her literal interpretation of his "be my guest" invitation that has her moving into his Hackney flat within a week. A sculptor specializing in pained-looking human forms, he is also a vegetarian who, prior to Z, led a mostly gay life. His bisexuality seems to bother her less than the fact that he won't eat pork, but he is initially delighted by her youth, naivete and absolute dependence on him. There is much that Z does not understand about western culture, and her ever-improving ESL narration of London living is both fascinating and amusing, such as when she reads a Pet House magazine to improve her language skills. As the lovers settle into a domestic routine, their relationship deepens and she realizes that speaking his mother tongue won't necessarily help her understand her broody Englishman. The existential angst that seems "noble" to her comes across as self-indulgent to the reader. For his part, he grows tired of Z's neediness and encourages her to backpack around Europe, where she meets a series of men, but never stops thinking of him. Back in their shared flat, in between bouts of lovemaking, Z struggles to balance her practical life plans with her romantic ideals, and by the bittersweet conclusion it is clear that she has grown in ways that neither she nor her lover could have ever imagined. Guo's U.S. debutquickly overcomes the early chapters' self-conscious winsomeness to become a compelling and moving tale of first love. An often-charming exploration of learning, love and loss.

Available to Buy

Follow Us