A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaulo Guo

This was another book I picked up from the library following a LibraryThing recommendation. It tells the story of Z, a young Chinese woman who is sent to London by her parents to study English. It follows her development in several way; from a timid, scared girl coming to a strange country with little command of the language, her growing up a lot due to her relationship and, in some ways, her independence (which I’ll come back to) and her mastery of English. This illustration is one of the best things about the book – it’s almost like a diary, and the style of writing changes and gets more coherent as Z’s English improves.

From the description and the start of the book I was expecting a gentle love story to while away the weekend and it was, for a while. However it goes a lot deeper than that – Z, for example, jumps straight into a fairly serious relationship and basically swaps one kind of dependence (on her parents) for another (her boyfriend who, to be honest, is a bit of an idiot). It’s fun to see her confidence improve and more of her character come out as she’s able to express herself better, and there are a lot of nods to some of the odder things about Britain and British people that I found quite amusing. It does lose its punch towards the end though, and the ending is quite abrupt which isn’t a surprise given the story, but did leave me vaguely unsatisfied. However I would like to know a bit more about Z’s life after her year in England, so I’d obviously become attached to her.

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