Stories about Hackney

p10001901It’s World Book Day today, so a fine time to mention  A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo. Set in Hackney, it is about a love affair between a newly arrived Chinese woman and a depressive  Hackney sculptor. Hopefully you can see the cover from this little photo. 
It begins with the sentence Sorry of my English, and describes the first few days of landing in London – the baked beans at the B&B, the ‘blood red carpet with suspicions dirty spots’ and the narrator’s total lack of comprehension of English social mores: ‘I don’t believe we same age,’ she tells someone. ‘You look much older than me’.
As the story continues her language improves and the writing changes, becoming less stilted but never losing its poetry and attention to the telling detail in an image or phrase. It’s original and brilliant but also a really good story, one of those curl-up-in-bed-and-disappear-for-a-few hours novels.


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