- Hardcover: 304 pages
- Publisher: Nan A. Talese; 1st Edition edition (Sept. 4 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385520298
- ISBN-13: 978-0385520294
- Product Dimensions: 15.1 x 2.7 x 21.6 cm
- Shipping Weight: 272 g
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,379,037 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers: A Novel Hardcover – Sep 4 2007
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From 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.)
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Praise for A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers
"A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers is original, humorous, and wise. Within imperfect language one can find many perfect truths of the human condition. The misunderstandings are really the understandings of the differences of the heart between men and women."
“A fast, breezy read, don’t be so easily entertained as to miss the many nuances—beyond the most obvious definitions are deeper, more satisfying meanings.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Xiaolu Guo’s novel, her first in English, is smartly absorbing. ‘A’ ”
“as absorbing as a peek into a diary.”
–San Diego Union-Tribune
“Endearing…. Concise takes us into a new territory, all the more exciting for its virginity.”
“What makes this novel winsome is hearing the authentic voice of a young woman–bewildered, self-deprecating, funny, wise–as she navigates the world on her own.”
"[The narrator's] voice is funny, childlike and wise all at once."
–Los Angeles Times
“Funny and charming . . . more than a love story; its psychology is politically acute, and things noted lightly in it linger in the mind.”
—The Guardian (London)
"An inventive, often humorous and poignant story of a woman's journey over cultural and emotional borders."
“A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers cleverly courts our assumptions about the chasm between Chinese and Western cultures, only to upend them. It is an utterly captivating, and disorientating, journey both through language and through love.”
—The Independent (London)
“It is impossible not to be charmed by Xiaolu Guo’s matter-of-factness. As A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers grows in complexity with [the main character’s] growing vocabulary—the narration acquires fluency and tenses almost imperceptibly—it is equally hard not to be impressed by Guo’s vivacious talent.”
—Sunday Times (London)
“Xiaolu Guo is a fabulous writer, fresh, witty, and intelligent. She handles language in an astonishing way. I don't think I have enjoyed a book as much in the last twelve months.”
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The novel is about words and language. She comes from the historic land of China, with a long religious and philosophic past(not at all reflected in her character) we hear of chairman Mao, his influence on her and his
collective instincts, the stamping out of the individual, and family life and like most of the diaspora its left a haunting mark. What she finds of value in her land, is the family she had, where the family is the personality and all contribute to the collective of the family..she meets someone she likes and wants to encounter. Here she is the zillionth occupant of the ancient mainland, and the thought processes of eons of collected thought are bound up in her..as she meets the elite mind of western culture, in Europe, what she sees as the more philosophically advanced and sophisticated..and they travel throughout England and talk and she tries to use words and language encounter her friend..enjoying scones..and as she recalls the husks of her family life..and her new place trying to find a home..the ancient garden back home, the trees and flowers vegetables and many elements of nature..the people are absent like Mao and the milennia of people they represent..they no longer resemble the people of the ancient past..news is newspeak..and even Mao is gone..and here she is trying to find some identity..but the yearnings of ancient times remain strong there is talk of buddhism..trying to find what will bring happiness and love..to the deepest part of her..to her spouse..her wakes each morning and "picks up" the newspaper..and her reflections about the ancient land to the new land where the old is the land of values and here in europe..individualism in excelsus..
she has no way of understanding it. It doesnt flow down her stream and at novels end she departs from her lover still in love..she doubts whether her new found love loves her..on p 335 we read "loveless"..she wonders if she's an agnostic, sceptic,fatalist..at least she feels at peace that she's not an anarchist and she returns home..still wanting to learn much. She comes home to Beijing from "western philosophical nonsense"(p 350)..the west seems so strange to her and here she is still not at home with the people on her return..a person wanting to find a place to call home a home.."scared..think..love..thoughts"(p 336)..I enjoyed her novel and its fellows that followed and I think its authentic and expressive of the alienation in modern times that some feel, and I find it a great novel and will look at its fellows later, and one of the novelists I take seriously who doesnt put happy endings on novels and her endings show much of her life and search for love remains unresolved, and she's still clairvoyant about her emotional life, without denial. Besides streams of consciousness which she tries to follow through onhere, and which is her modern approach, and the devotee of film and film writing make the best of partners with the modern novel in all ways, each reinforces whats best in each other..there's a sociology here which I read years ago in a philosophical-religious piece "introverted or turned towards the world"..by Schillebeeckx E which discusses the change in culture from eastern and western society..and why did ancient people find it so much easier to find faith and love than we do today..a complex problem and there is much in this novel that i've elaborated on..but each must take it in their owm way..in their own stream of thought..check out her other books!!