A lover’s discourse 

The great thing about working in a library is there are so many books.

I recently stumbled on my new favourite author, Xiaolu Guo. I regularly walk past our Newmarket collection and I was attracted by the beautiful cover of her book, A lover’s discourse.

The story is set in London in the winter of 2015, just prior to the Brexit referendum. Each brief chapter starts with a fragment of a conversation between the two lovers and is told through the voice of a young Chinese woman who has newly arrived to study visual anthropology.

The unnamed narrator is lonely after the recent loss of her parents and a longing for home. She meets the “elderflower picker” at a picnic organised by her friends. They are both culturally displaced people trying to find their way in the world. We move between different locations as they navigate their relationship and cultural differences.

Along the way we learn about Chinese language and customs,  learn a bit of German, and travel to Queensland to visit the family of the “elderflower picker”. This is a unique, humorous and satisfying read.

A concise Chinese-English dictionary for lovers

This intriguing title got me hooked when I saw it on our New Display shelf and it just happens to be written by Xiaolu Guo. There are similarities with A lover’s discourse.


The story is set in London and it’s about a young Chinese woman who arrives there to study English. She meets her English lover quite soon after her arrival. Her name is Z and her English is very bad. She carries around a dictionary to help her translate, but it leads to many misunderstandings.

Once again we don’t find out her lover’s name, but when he invites her to “be my guest” she interprets this literally and moves into his Hackney flat. The story is about the role language plays in relationships and how meanings of words are fluid and can be interpreted in many ways.

Over the course of the book her English improves dramatically. However, the relationship with the Englishman is far from smooth. Like a Lover’s Discourse both the characters are culturally displaced people trying to find their way. It is a humorous, contemporary and serious story. Highly entertaining.


On my TBR list are three more books by Xiaolu Guo.
Two are autobiographical works and I am China is a novel.