Xiaolu Guo – A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers


As someone who immigrated from Canada to Malta, and had to learn how a culture works from language ( which I still haven’t fully grasped, totally my fault) to attitudes, I enjoy reading books about the immigrant experience. Thus the blurb of this novel just screamed BUY so, I did.

Guo tackles the immigrant experience in an original way: The main protagonist, Z moves to London in order to study the English language and takes with her an English to Chinese dictionary, thus every chapter is prefaced with a definition and how that word plays a role when Z tries to understand London life.

Throughout the book Z tries to find work, falls in love and tours Europe and the romantic interest takes up the bulk of the book but it does work as a way of displaying the culture clash. The one thing which I appreciated with this novel is that it does not fall into any tropes and the end result is a refreshing take on the uniqueness of culture.

This is my second Xiaolu Guo, the first being the excellent I am China and I’m glad that A Concise… was no fluke. I will definitely seek out other books by this author.