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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking and witty
I was a little put off by the premise of "A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers", as the fact its claim to be written in "deliberately bad English" sounded suspiciously gimmicky to me. I over-rode my apprehensions and bought the book, however - and I'm very glad that I did. This book is well-deserving of its shortlisting for the 2007 Orange Broadband Prize, and...
Published on 28 May 2007 by Philida

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not romantic, not what I expected
I didn't enjoy this story at all. First of, I didn't like the main characters' personalities. Z always sounded complaining and with a pessimistic outlook on life and the man sounds like someone who doesn't know what to do with life and is also pessimistic. I get that they are both confused and trying to find themselves within, but I thought how they got together and...
Published on 10 Sep 2011 by S. Dickenson


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29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking and witty, 28 May 2007
This review is from: A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (Hardcover)
I was a little put off by the premise of "A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers", as the fact its claim to be written in "deliberately bad English" sounded suspiciously gimmicky to me. I over-rode my apprehensions and bought the book, however - and I'm very glad that I did. This book is well-deserving of its shortlisting for the 2007 Orange Broadband Prize, and while I still think the concept is something of a marketing ploy, it is all the same an integral part of the book, and one which became less noticeable the more of it I read.

Xialou's characterisation of a Chinese girl setting foot out of her country for the first time is pitch-perfect. Zhuang is comic, naive, and eager to learn, and in spite of her lack of academic qualifications, she is a true philosopher. It is so very rare to feel as though one is next to a character, experiencing everything she experiences and watching the London streets through her eyes. I honestly can't remember the last time I've felt so close to a fictional character, as though she were sharing all her secrets with me.

There are moments when I thought that Xiaolu could have afforded to have honed her subtlety a little - for example, a reference to "Walt Whiteman" late in the novel made me wince. There were also times when I felt that Zhuang was becoming a little repetitive. That being said, it wasn't all miss. There are some really beautiful moments of honesty, where Zhuang speaks plainly, breaking back into Mandarin and saying: "I am sick of speaking English like this. I am sick of writing English like this. I feel as if I am being tied up, as if I am living in a prison...the English culture surrounding me becomes enormous. It swallows me, and it rapes me. I am dominated by it." It is simply put and without flourishes - and expresses what she is feeling so well.

Everything considered, it's a beautiful book which manages to be socially relevant without becoming "soap boxy". The language is quietly passionate, the characters are well-crafted, and the story is uncomplicated and thoroughly believable. The comedic touches are expertly placed: Xiaolu often writes with one eyebrow arched ironically in the reader's direction. Certainly pick it up if you ever have the opportunity.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stranger in a Strange Land, 8 Feb 2007
By 
P. Mangles (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (Hardcover)
Wonderful book!

You share a journey with the book's narrator, someone who's discovering London, Britain, Europe, Men and herself... Some parts of the journey are extremely funny, some parts are sad, others joyfull! All written from a fresh perspective and very, very readable...

My Chinese fiancee has also read this, loves it and confirms it's very true to the Chinese experience of arriving in London!

And finally, it's not Chick-Lit!
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Who are you?, 22 May 2007
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This review is from: A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (Hardcover)
I was very moved by this book - a 'Love Story' for the C21. In principal it is a simple story of a Chinese girl coming to London to learn English.... but as the girl struggles to learn and make herself understood, she increasingly questions the attitudes and values of the English, and in particular her lover, a would-be artist, framer and drop-out. (Not so much culture clash as cultures zooming in opposite directions!) Along the way she begins to examine her own attitudes and values, and her inner conflict over her status as a mere 'lover.' As she masters the language, another frustration grows - the relationship is doomed: the understanding arrives, but the desire does not depart.

This is as much a coming-of-age/loss-of-innocence story as it is about East meeting West; told with startling honesty, wit and insight. It hits out at the nature of love, and comes closer than many of the more 'serious' books.

Don't be put off by the "deliberately bad" English - it adds to the sense of disorientation, but the vocabulary is chosen with precision and intelligence so the meaning becomes clear with very little effort.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Helps us to see ourselves as others see us, 20 Mar 2008
I liked this book - particularly the Chinese perspective on privacy and space. Z's lover took her into his home, shared his house and body with her, but then he balked when she wanted to know his history and thoughts. She is left confused by his mixed messages. The novel offers a small window into a Chinese visitor's perspective on our strange ways.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Look at England with new eyes, 6 April 2008
A marvelous book ... written from the perspective of a Chinese girl who comes to England to study English, moves in with an Englishman and discovers herself and England through the dictionary ... (the misunderstandings often takes her in the most hilarious directions ...)

The way the narrator portrays her Western lover is so accurate, so touching. You can really feel who he is. A typical drifter ... The most remarkable thing is that he - the lover - sends her off on an inter-railing trip across Europe.

An outsider's view of the West; a really refreshing perspective. It's also written in a broken English that at times becomes very poetic. Can recommend this book to anyone who wants to look at life in England with new eyes.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars open up this exotic fig of a book, 26 Mar 2007
By 
Iago Zabibha "iago zabibha" (Worcester United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (Hardcover)
I don t buy many hardbacks, but I ve bought this twice, once for myself and once for a Chinese friend. I teach English and the heroine's story from her arrival at Heathlow(sic) Airport is by turns funny, poignant and surreal.I did wonder why she stuck with her middle aged lover, addressed interestingly as "you", when they had so little in common. I love the way her English gradually improves throughout the narrative. This really shows London (and through it British Culture) to be the strange alien place it is to many immigrants. This is an apt book to read as China moves from its Maoist insularity to the number one economic power.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not romantic, not what I expected, 10 Sep 2011
I didn't enjoy this story at all. First of, I didn't like the main characters' personalities. Z always sounded complaining and with a pessimistic outlook on life and the man sounds like someone who doesn't know what to do with life and is also pessimistic. I get that they are both confused and trying to find themselves within, but I thought how they got together and started a relationship so quick was rather silly and premature.

I was quite surprised when reading because I thought it would be a romantic love story about the struggles between two lovers from different cultures to understand each other, but I didn't find it romantic at all. Instead, we are subjected to Guo describing intimate love-making details which I found a tad bit unnecessary.
The guy seems like a sex-mad aphrodisiac who is taking advantage of young foreign meat, someone who doesn't know which way he wants to bend and a general loose cannon while Z is like a naive girl falling in love with the first man she has ever slept with and finding it difficult to understand why he would not love her back the way she expects, which is kinda obvious why he wouldn't!

I also found it difficult to believe when she starts to travel around Europe how so many guys approached her, literally as soon as she reached the destination. She must be a very attractive pretty girl in the story or have some sort of guy-magnet magic aura!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Mediocre and irritating, 21 Jun 2010
I think this light, simple story promises more than it delivers. The story is of Z, a you Chinese girl who is sent to the UK to study English by her parents. It is about Z's struggle with the different cultures, the language barrier and her relationship with the English man she falls in love with.

Guo seems to have tried to produce something profound, a fresh view of human relationships stripped bare by the crossing of cultural boundaries. In reality, I found that it read like a damp love story where the couple are so incompatible and unsuited for each other that you wonder why they don't just call it a day and leave each other alone. I got tired of reading about their little squabbles and disagreements, their tense silences and irritations. It was constantly frustrating to read about an adult affair from the child-like perception of Z - She comes across as needy and desperate, without any sign of her developing or maturing until the very last pages. By the end of the book I found myself hoping that her (rather hopeless) lover would do us all a favour and work up the courage to shed the dead weight of his Chinese girlfriend who moved in with him because of a misunderstanding.

Her lover is described as restless and dissatisfied with life, with hints at a traumatic past having turned him into someone jaded and old beyond his years. Z reads some of his old diaries and tries so piece together how he became who he is, but that particular story line is dropped without conclusions, leaving me thinking that he was basically just a bit of a useless moper with a limp handshake - The very antithesis of a masculine half of an exotic, boundary-breaking love affair. He constantly talks about the simple life he wants to lead but still endures the urban rat-race without actually doing anything to achieve what he wants. His character is wet and ultimately as irritating as Z. For a love story, the two of them together produce something as romantic as a stone in your shoe.

There are a few good bits, however. The first half of the book is hilarious in parts, with Z's voice narrating in bad English and making funny mistakes based on a quite clever observation of the sometimes bizarre English language and grammar. However, Z's impression of British culture is almost completely negative and unnecessarily unflattering, another thing adding to the main character's frustrating immaturity.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful and subtle book that gives an outsider's viewpoint of English culture, 27 Oct 2008
By 
Sarah Durston (London) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
Twenty-three year old Zhuang has come to London to study English. When she arrives she is bewildered that it is not the London of Victorian novels (where's the fog?)
Zhuang discovers a love for film and is desperate to immerse herself as much as possible in English language and culture but when she falls in love with an English man, twenty years her senior, things become even more complicated.

This is an incredibly beautiful book which gives you a completely new and refreshing viewpoint on English culture and language. The book is written in Zhuang's broken English, which results in startling sentences that really illuminate how easily things can be misinterpreted and how, when language is manipulated in a different way you can discover whole new layers of meaning. It's not all doom and gloom either, there are some really funny moments: why is it Ok for Shakespeare to spell things `incorrectly'?

The love story at the centre of the book is also incredibly touching. I really enjoyed this book and it reminded me a lot of `The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time,' not because of content, but because it made me look at a familiar world in a completely different way.

Recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Cultural Experience with Humour, 20 Jun 2008
This review is from: A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (Hardcover)
I bought the book out of my desire to understand my Chinese Girlfriend & our Cultural differences more. By chance I had already heard part of the serialised Radio 4 version, when later, walking with her along the Creek in Dubai, she quoted the "Close the Door, Properly" scene with the London Cab Driver, to me. My immediate response was to get her to write down the title of the book, because I remembered both the angst & humour portrayed on the Radio. The book has opened my eyes to many of our own cultural clashes, before and since, sadly one too many caused our break up, but the authors' portrayal is uncannily close to many of our own situations and has enhanced my love & desire to learn more about Chinese culture and many of their new emerging authors. This was a beautiful love story tinged with sadness and funny situations, which also gave a great insight into the problems of a lone immigrant coming to London & coping with life in that vast lonely metropolis. A very emotional read for me personally also.
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A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo (Hardcover - 1 Feb 2007)
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