A concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers by Xiaolu Guo

Title: A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

Paperback, 256 pages

Published February 1st 2007 by Chatto & Windus (first published 1981)

ISBN :0701180382 (ISBN13: 9780701180386)

Synopsis from Good reads

Twenty-three-year-old Zhuang, the daughter of shoe factory owners in rural China, has come to London to study English. She calls herself Z because English people can’t pronounce her name, but she’s no better at their language. Set loose to find her way through a confusion of cultural gaffes and grammatical mishaps, she winds up lodging with a Chinese family and thinks she might as well not have left home. But then she meets an English man who changes everything. From the moment he smiles at her, she enters a new world of sex, freedom, and self-discovery. But she also 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.

Drawing on her diaries from when she first arrived in the UK, Xiaolu Guo winningly writes the story in steadily improving English grammar and vocabulary. Freshly humorous, sexy, and poignant, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers is an utterly original novel about language, identity, and the cultural divide.

My Thoughts:

Sometimes when you read a book that makes you laugh and cry all at once and you wonder what kind of a book that is- a good one, I have realized .Xiaolu’s book is a poignant ,yet funny tale of a young Chinese girl who arrives in London with shiny eyes and unending reserves of curiosity to learn English.Written in the first person narrative,almost like a diary,the first 100 odd pages almost reads like a chicklit – breezy and funny. As the protagonist, Z tackles English breakfasts,the infamous” English weather” ,dodgy lodgings,intricacies of English grammar and hosts of other “English” things, Xiaolu will enthrall you with her wit and funny observations, all written in deliberately bad English.

I fell in love with the protagonist,Z,whose earnestness made the book all the more special for me.Gradually,as Z settles into her life in London and falls in love with a man, the tone changes. What starts off like a borderline chicklit starts getting deeper and more philosophical and you can certainly sense the metamorphosis Z goes through from the wide-eyed carefree foreigner to a self-introspecting ,slightly jaded individual.Understandably, as you progress through the book,you can see the change in Z’s language and her grammar.As Z discovers Sex ,love and independence,she struggles to find a balance between her Chinese sensibilities and the expectations of a western civilization.

The book took me on a nostalgic trip ,where several years ago I found myself in a strange country,struggling to grapple with my new life and battling strong feelings of “taking the next flight back home”. Xiaolu captures this sentiment rather well and Z’s loneliness comes across clearly. I absolutely loved the way every chapter started with the meaning of a word that Z encounters- these entries are from the dictionary she carries with her at all times.

Overall,a beautiful book that I would recommend to everyone. Towards the end,it might get a little bleak with more philosophical overtones,but on the whole you’ll love the journey the book takes you on. 4/5 for Xiaolu’s book.Doesn’t the cover look fab? LOVE IT!!