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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

Western Society From The Outside

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers - Xiaolu Guo

This is the story of a Zhuang, a young Chinese woman who comes to England to learn English. While here, she has a relationship with a man who cannot commit to her, or to the future, or to anything very much. He's a very recognisable character, though to Zhuang he's a real mystery - at first, anyway.


What makes this book so special is the voice. It's written in the first person using the English that Zhuang knows, full of mistakes that amuse while at the same time highlighting the oddity of Western society when observed from outside.


As the narrative continues, Zhuang's English increases in complexity, and her understanding of the culture around her deepens. Only her relationship diminishes. Finally, twelve months later, she returns to China, older, sadder and, in her own words, 'grown-up'. Funny, poignant and illuminating, this is both a love story and an acute exploration of cultural difference.