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A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (Wheeler Hardcover)

4.3 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1597226677
ISBN-10: 159722667X
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Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Bookmarks Magazine

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers remains light as it explores love across a cultural divide. The novelâ€"Xiaolu Guo’s first in Englishâ€"was short-listed for Britain’s 2007 Orange Prize and has charmed critics on this side of the pond as well. Inspired, in part, by Guo’s own experience relocating from China to London, the novel is a moving and mostly humorous narrative of cultural dislocation. Some critics had difficulty adjusting to Z’s initially halting English, but most agreed the obstacle was worth overcoming. A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers is a compelling read that will offer many native-English speakers a new perspective on themselves and their language.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Wheeler Hardcover
  • Hardcover: 413 pages
  • Publisher: Wheeler Publishing (January 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 159722667X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597226677
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6.7 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,214,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By John Lonergan on April 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
It's surprising - to me anyway - that I am the first customer to review this book. I bought it because I am interested in cross-cultural understanding, and hoped I would gain some insights. Having read it - and gained more insights than I could have dreamed of - I assumed everyone in the world must have read it by now, and many would have hastened to review it here.

Xiaolu Guo (call her "Z," most people in the book do) is a young woman who arrives in London from China to complete a course in English.

Her story, each chapter of which is based on an English word, is just fascinating. At a fairly early stage she begins a relationship with an Englishman, and their mutual struggle to find a deep bond, (well, to find love I suppose), is painful, endearing, frustrating and at times hilarious.

Xiaolu's commentary on English customs, cuisine and quirks is genuinely profound. As a Westerner, I found it hugely helpful in my battle to understand the differences between the West and China; I recommend it highly to people planning a visit to China, or planning serious dealings with Chinese.

Of course I wonder how much of it is autobiographical, and my guess is "most" - in which case Xiaolu is a powerful, brilliant and very funny woman. But even if it is predominantly fiction, it is a great read.

Some may be put off by the writing style - "deliberately bad English" - but I think this is one of the strengths of the book. It certainly enhances its authenticity.

In this review I have focused on the educational value of the book, and perhaps even its value as a travel narrative (her trip through Europe is a novella in its own right).

But for those who would like to read a great, funny, and at times very erotic novel - you won't be disappointed either.
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Format: Hardcover
Zhuang, a young girl from a manufacturing town on the South China Sea, is sent to England to learn the language so she can further the interests of her family's business. She records her progress in the notebook that is this novel - words, impressions, incomprehensions, loneliness. Each chapter starts with a dictionary definition. The book begins in severely broken English - "Is unbelievabal, I arriving in London, `Heathlow Airport'..." -- with observations of the city and the people around her, and progresses to more abstract themes as the writer's English improves.

Zhuang gives up her name because English people cannot pronounce it, calling herself Z, and boards with a Chinese family. In her second month of diaspora she meets a man in a cinema and moves in with him. Twenty years her senior, a bisexual drifter and artist, subject to depression and averse to commitment, he seems an unlikely object of her love and passion.

As Z becomes more proficient in her new language the book offers insight into her cultural point of view. Finding her lover selfish, Z observes that the Chinese are not encouraged to use the word "self" since it is the antithesis of collectivism and the self is the enemy of the communist party. On a holiday to Wales the profound silence saps her: "It doesn't matter if one speaks Chinese or English here; it doesn't matter if one is mute or deaf. Language is not important anymore. Only the simple physical existence matters in the nature."

I found the beginning of the book hard to read because the neophyte English doesn't allow enough depth of expression. As the language develops, Z's alienation is beautifully displayed though she defines herself somewhat narrowly in terms of her love for the English artist (who is never named for us).
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Format: Hardcover
Zhuang is 23 years old when she arrives in London to study English. She has a one-year student visa, is enrolled in an English language school, and has no idea how she will manage to function and exist in England. Since no one can pronounce her name, Zhuang goes by Z. Armed with her handy Concise Chinese-English Dictionary, she only hopes that she will manage to acclimate and learn in her new country.

After finding a Chinese family to stay with, Z is at the movies alone when she meets the man who will change her life. Referred to only in the second-person, the man is 20 years her senior, but within a week she's moved in with him. Her companion is mysterious and the reader wonders about his motives, but our heroine falls deeper and deeper in love with him. Their relationship is the focus of this touching novel, along the effect it has on Z, her sense of self and individuality, and how it helps her to develop her identity.

As an editor, it was difficult for me to read the first few chapters of this book even in spite of the author's note (Sorry of my English). The book is written as Z would speak, with her English getting better over the course of the story, the vocabularly getting broader, and an eventual grasp on English grammar being developed. It can be difficult to get used to, but once you absorb yourself in the story, the language is the least of your concerns.

This story was amazingly well written and the characters reminded me of those from some of my favorite coming-of-age novels. Z, though 23, is a naive child when she arrives in England. Her parents are funding her education, she has no real plans for where she will live, and she bounces from hostel to apartment to live-in boyfriend with no thoughts about the repurcussions of her actions.
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