A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers

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I prefer read book with sentences not made look like broke.

I prefer writer who not pretend not speak English when actually I think she speak English very goodly. If you think this is annoying in a review, you might want to think carefully before picking up A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers. The heroine, Z, is a year-old girl from small-town China who lands in London and finds: 'I am alien, like Hollywood film Alien, I live in another planet, with funny-looking and strange language. I standing in most longly and slowly queue with all aliens waiting for visa checking.

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A Concise Chinese English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo

Heathrow airport is Heathlow airport. Fizzy water is filthy water. A rucksack is a rocksack. There are lots of points that Xiaolu Guo is trying to make with her use of language: about Chinese and British culture, about the impossibility of perfect communication between two people, about belonging and not belonging.

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But the cod-pidgin is not so much grittily authentic as a stagy literary device that never really convinces, and it's no coincidence that as Z's English improves so does the novel. The heart of the book is a love story between Z and her English boyfriend, a year-old, ex-anarchist, bisexual vegetarian who lives in Hackney and doesn't like to talk about his feelings. Yes, they have issues.


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The conceit of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers is that it's a textbook or a primer and that is its greatest problem, too. There's too much tell and not enough show. Z explains her background in China and tells us about her parents who make shoes, but this is so much more powerfully conveyed in the incidental details.


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Their relationship seems to be the result of happenstance, Z literally jumping into bed with the first man she meets and then sticking with him because neither of them can be bothered to look for a more suitable mate with him also frequently noting that he probably prefers the solitary life. A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers isn't a coming-of-age novel, but Z does have some catching up to do -- and she'll admit by the end that England is "the country where I became an adult".


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  6. Life in China wasn't completely cloistered, but she has not been exposed to very much. Among the major discoveries she makes in England is sex. Her experience with the man she moves in with is her first, and lust becomes an issue for her quite often too, as she just begins to learn all its potential, as well as the need to control it. Language -- English and, to some extent, Chinese -- is central to the novel, and Guo does some clever things with it.

    I don't like nouns too, as they change all the time like verbs. I only like adjectives, and adverbs. They don't change. If I can, I will only speak adjectives and adverbs.

    Heathlow aiport? Oh how we laughed

    While she says she doesn't miss home much, she does miss being able to express herself in her language. All her other frustrations -- frequently not directly acknowledged -- are, in fact, reflected in her frustration with English: there the different world she finds herself in feels most obviously foreign, often literally incomprehensible. The comforts of Chinese, of expressing oneself in a certain way, where language works differently, remain elusive here. So, for example, even at the end of her stay, she finds: "I am still no good at verbs, particularly future tense" -- and, of course, seeing what the future holds and deciding which path to take remains one of her major problems.

    Guo's approach has considerable appeal, and the language-issues are quite well done. But the story itself isn't nearly as compelling. Z's year flies by, and there's much that she doesn't reveal. There are hardly any other friends and acquaintances -- people, like words, are constantly tested out and then left behind. Among the few characters that appear at several points is Z's English-teacher, but it's only at their last meeting that the woman she has been calling 'Mrs.

    Margaret' tells Z that: "You should say Mrs. Wilkinson, or just Margaret" -- making clear that Z never really knew her at all, either.

    A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo

    A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers is a decent culture-clash novel, and its unusual perspective and story a more entertaining variation on the theme than most, but it doesn't go deep enough into any of these characters -- especially Z -- to be truly compelling. Of some interest, but not really a success. Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs. Contents: Main. Petit Dictionnaire chinois-anglais pour amants - France. Financial Times.

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    The LA Times. San Francisco Chronicle. Sunday Times.