A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers
By Xiaolu Guo
(Nan A. Talese, Hardcover, 9780385520294, 304pp.)
Publication Date: September 4, 2007
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A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers heralds the American debut of a remarkably gifted young writer.
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.
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.
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.”