A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers  by Xiaolu Guo
(Chatto and Windus, 2007)

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers

by Xiaolu Guo

Twenty-three-year-old Zhuang (or Z as she calls herself) arrives in London to spend a year learning English.

Struggling to find her way in the city, and through the puzzles of tense, verb and adverb; she falls for an older Englishman and begins to realise that the landscape of love is an even trickier terrain…


  • Orange Prize for Fiction (Shortlisted)


A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers is original, humorous and wise. Within imperfect language one can find many perfect truths of the human condition. The misunderstandings are really the understandings of the differences of the heart between men and women.”
- Amy Tan
An uplifting novel with moments of great poignancy and pathos ”
- Irish Tatler
This novel will be compared with A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian, but it is so much better than that. Guo uses her minimalist, messed-up prose not just to tell an affecting coming-of-age story, but to ask deep questions about the real differences between Chinese and British culture and language. ”
- Independent on Sunday
It is impossible not to be charmed by her matter-of-factness. As the story grows in complexity with Z’s growing vocabulary the narration acquires fluency and tenses almost imperceptibly it is equally hard not to be impressed by Guo’s vivacious talent. ”
- Sunday Times
Cleverly courts our assumptions about the chasm between Chinese and Western cultures, only to upend them... It is an utterly captivating, and disorientating, journey both through language and through love. ”
- The Independent
Told with an engaging directness the short, poignant chapters reveal that the vocabulary of love and loss is fundamental to all languages.”
- The Daily Mail
Funny and charming...more than a love story; its psychology is politically acute, and things noted lightly in it linger in the mind. It succeeds in luring the western reader into an alien way of thinking. ”
- The Guardian