Xiaolu Guo writes in a beautiful, arresting way. It's as if the reader is swimming, only to be pulled underwater and held there until they need to come up for air.
I read it in gulps, huge chunks of pages slip through my fingers.
I love how detailed this book is, I love that so much thought and effort seems to go into it. This book is about a girl called Zhuang, or "Z", and it is written in a diary format with each chapter titled a new word she learns in that chapter, or, the theme of it. I love that as her English improves, the writing becomes more complex.
I love her character arc, I love the arc of the man she meets. There are LGBT themes in this book, which surprised me and made me grateful for representation. The characters are complex and believable. Z has a great sense of humour and Guo's ability to pick apart the contradictions and absurdities in British culture make me grin, because she's so right.
I feel like Xiaolu Guo is an author who really doesn't get the attention she deserves. If I waited, I could've read this during the Underhyped Readathon for February/March 2016, running from the 27th till the 4th of March, but I couldn't wait, because I adore her work too much.
I will say though, that she is an underhyped author, and if I were to pick one, I would recommend her any time I had the chance.
Oh! tw: for a non-consensual sex scene that happens on about page 200 of my book.
I found this book interesting and sad. It's true that differences between the two cultures are highlighted, but so is the tendency to extrapolate from one person to an entire culture. Z's relationship is with a very particular man, and not necessarily a man who represents all western men. in fact, he's a man who is not made for relationship, and all she wants to do is to establish a relationship with him. It reminds me of times when I set my heart on an unreachable goad, and the futility of continuing to strive to get that goal. (Spoiler|: Also sad is that when she returns to Beijing, she no longer fits there either.)
It's worth a read, though.
Incredibly depressing. The title is a bit misleading. Perhaps, "A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Codependents & Depressives" would be more fitting. I agree with uncommonreader's comments.
The structure of this book is a somewhat interesting idea. It is the diary of a Chinese student in London to learn English, and as time passes, her vocabulary and command of the English language improve as does her own self-understanding. Each chapter is headed by a dictionary definition of a word which is the theme of the chapter. However, the entire focus is on her relationship with a man and this relationship defines everthing. She grows up, but why is it contingent on this relationship? The cleverness of the idea hides a lack of depth, and her intellectual and emotional submissiveness quickly becomes annoying.
A fascinating exploration of the linguistic and cultural peculiarities that can make it difficult for people of different backgrounds to understand, let alone love, each other. As a linguistic experiment alone, the book is already worth reading. The author does an excellent job of showing the protagonist's gradually improving command of the English language, and the subtle transformation from a foreign student's hilariously crippled narrative into a fully competent one is utterly believable. It's also an effective literary device: I found my own reader's view of "Z" as a charmingly naive visitor to an alien world shifting accordingly, to the point where I realized how much her limited grasp of the language had coloured my initial perception of her as a person. As her English communication skills improve and her understanding of the host culture grows, "Z" paradoxically becomes only more estranged from it. Again, the more I learned to appreciate Z's difficulties in adapting to an alien world view, the more my own perspective shifted away from an ingrained, uncritical familiarity with Western values and sensibilities to the vantage point of a visitor who finds these neither transparent nor self-evident. It's the kind of paradigm shift you usually only get after an extended absence from your own country; this book is therefore a must read for the serious armchair traveler. Intriguing, funny, sometimes cute and sometimes shocking, this book is strangely refreshing in spite of the unhappy undertone... I love it!
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