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A Lover's Discourse

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  503 ratings  ·  115 reviews
A story of desire, love and language - and the meaning of home - told through conversations between two lovers

A Chinese woman comes to London to start a new life - away from her dead parents, away from her old world. She knew she would be lonely, but will her new relationship with the Australian-British-German landscape architect bring her closer to this land she has chose
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published August 13th 2020 by Chatto Windus
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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Elyse  Walters
Apr 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book, with it’s gorgeous book cover, was a surprise in many ways.
I certainly didn’t expect to read the entire book in thirty minutes. But.... it took another thirty minutes of sitting with a big smile on my face.

The styling is unique - poetic & lyrical - with many pages having only a few words.

“Xiaolu Guo is a Chinese British novelist, memoirist, and film-maker, who explores migration, alienation, memory, personal journeys, feminism translation, and trans national identities”.
Her books
Jessica | JustReadingJess
Sep 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
A Lover’s Discourse by Xiaolu Guo is a very unique novel.

A Lover’s Discourse is about a Chinese woman and her relationship with a German man in Brexit Britain. It is an interesting book from a woman’s perspective. The book is composed of little stories of the couple.

I found the book very interesting and like reading unique stories. A Lover’s Discourse is a romance about a couple that doesn’t believe in love. The reader gets to hear what the woman is thinking. Both characters feel like they don
Gumble's Yard
Jul 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Now shortlisted for the 2020 Goldsmith Prize.

The idea was that slavery was at the heart of a capitalistic system where reproduction was the main engine. All the things I wrote about originality were kind of beside the point. Originality is a fetish of people who want to control the art market and the publishing industry. It’s also a fetish of academics, particularly the males and old farts. What I was really interested in – though right then even this was blurring in my mind – were the sweati
Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"There is no place like home"."Home is where the heart is". A warm cozy feeling...but what if you are rootless, an immigrant to a new country, unfamiliar with the language, culture and ideology?

He picked elderflowers by the park. "Wasn't it clear the moment you picked the elderflowers...and we looked at each other...[doesn't] love always start from first sight?...It's only when we have a second thought about our first sighted love, that we might change our mind". He was a landscape architect of
Nov 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize 2020
Another book from the Goldsmiths list which I liked, but struggled a little to see as innovative, though perhaps a greater knowledge of Roland Barthes might have helped, as Barthes book of the same name is mentioned several times.

This book tells the story of a relationship between a Chinese postgraduate student, who arrived in London at the time of the Brexit referendum in 2016 (Guo herself has been in Britain for longer, so this is clearly not her story)
Anna Luce
/ / / Read more reviews on my blog / / /

On paper A Lover's Discourse is the type of book that I generally like: we have an unmanned who recounts her relationship to her unmanned 'lover'—a man she addresses as 'you'. Our narrator met 'you' after moving from China to Britain in 2016. Recently orphaned and feeling somewhat alienated by her new environment the protagonist of A Lover's Discourse enters into a relationship with a German-Australian man. They begin living together in a houseboat, but wh
Aug 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020, 2020-goldsmiths
This is a story told in a series of short episodes or vignettes. A unnamed Chinese narrator moves to London for her PhD and forms a relationship with an unnamed German-English man she meets. The episodes we read form a sort of daisy-chain of conversations (the clue is in the book’s title) at various points in their relationship. There is no real story being told apart from the development of the relationship.

I understand, I think, the reason for this structure. The book begin with an epigraph ta
Resh (The Book Satchel)
I enjoyed A Lover’s Discourse by Xiaolu Guo—-told in fragments about love, belonging and clashing ideals of East and the West. A quiet novel, set in present times in UK. Through houseboats, stifling flatshares, a man and a woman try to understand their relationship and society. I was furious with the man that the unnamed narrator meets, dates and falls in love. Herein lies Guo’s strength. I wanted to shake the woman and ask her to leave him. He remains a disagreeable presence in her turbulent li ...more
Jul 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
I just love her books. They are hard to describe, a combination of scenes and witty observations. A relationship unfolds between a Chinese PHD student and a German-English man in Brexit Britain. Guo’s observations, thoughts and things she finds funny just chime so much with me. And I have that with all her books. She is just witty and smart. And I love that.
Jul 01, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, 中国, fiction
2.5 rounded up

This read like an updated version of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers - a quick and easy read about romantic love framed in the context of A Lover's Discourse: Fragments.

My view was that the thoughts shared by the protagonist, a Chinese woman who moves to London to study for a PhD just on the cusp of the Brexit vote, were not quite as deep or profound as Guo perhaps considered them to be. Our unnamed main character strikes up a relationship with a man who is half Bri
Paul Fulcher
Oct 21, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: goldsmiths-2020, 2020
"To try to write love is to confront the muck of language; that region of hysteria where language is both too much and too little, excessive (by the limitless expansion of the ego, by emotive submersion) and impoverished (by the codes on which love diminishes and levels it)."

from A Lover's Discourse: Fragments, translated by Richard Howard from Barthes' Fragments d’un discours amoureux.

Shortlisted for the 2020 Goldsmiths Prize, A Lover's Discourse by Xiaolu Guo is explicitly inspired in its form
Dec 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
A contemporary fiction of love and relationship, strongly elaborated that it feels like I am 'happily' delve inside their whole love phases from beginning to end, sitting at the table joining their talks and arguments, wandering inside their train of solipsistic monologues and captivating prose.

"I remember you said: ‘I don’t believe in love at first sight.’ I was taken aback. I thought we were definitely in love at first sight."

I find it interesting as it was told in the narrator's pov (she) bu
Sep 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Disclaimer: I receive a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

"I wanted to be a woman in the world, or really, a woman of the world - I wanted to equip myself with an intellectual mind so that I could enter a foreign land and not be lost in it."

A lovers Discourse is a fast pace easy book to read.
It's form the female first person POV. It feels like a diary of her story between her and her lover.
The book has no main ending. There is no definite ending that the plotline was going.
Sep 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley, audiobook
Audiobook version for me on this. I loved the narrator and her voice was easy and comforting.
The description of the book didn’t match the book. But that was fine for me. I can’t imagine being in another country and trying to fit in.
The book was mostly about a Chinese women and her need to further understand, well, everything. She was trying to desperately hold onto the preconceived ideals of places and concepts. Her perspective and mindset powerfully influenced her.
The book is about a re
John Banks
Dec 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shortlisted for the 2020 Goldsmiths Prize.

A strong, reasonably impressive book narrated by a young Chinese woman who moves to London to pursue a PhD in visual anthropology (she makes a documentary about workers in a small Chinese village in Guangdong Province who make a living by copying western art masterpieces and selling the reproductions) at King's College.

While in London she meets and falls in love with a young man (mixed Australian and German background) who is a landscape architect. All
Aug 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
I have often wondered what pulls me towards narratives that speak of a person’s search for home, for the comfort of belonging to some place. But I always draw a blank. Perhaps, the fact that I have never truly felt at home in the city I spent 18 years in has something to do with it? Maybe! A Lover’s Discourse is about a Chinese woman who moves from the Chinese countryside to London in the backdrop of the quickly changing British landscape due to Brexit. She wants a life away from the peasant bac ...more
Teenu Vijayan
Oct 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very different from what I initially thought, as someone who has grown up in different cities, the sense of home has changed over the years. I could relate to that essence the author wanted to show through the protagonist.
Two imperfect people trying to find a sense of normalcy through changing political climate seemed all too real.
Aug 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
”- So it's like we say 'have you eaten?' instead of 'how are you?' in our home town.” (p. 208/209)

This is quite the historic event: my very first preordered book, yay! So, when it finally arrived, I was reading I Am China by the same Xiaolu Guo, I put it on hold and jumped in this one.

I don't know about you, but I kind of love everything about the writing of Xiaolu Guo. This most recent book, although not my favourite by her (I think this is UFO in Her Eyes, for the irony and the (element of) su
A Lover's Discourse gets its inspiration from a 1977 book A Lover's Discourse: Fragments by Roland Barthes. In the current book, two lovers are sharing their thoughts on romantic love.

The conversation started out well. She believes in love at first sight; he does not. This exchange got me thinking about falling in love with my husband; I definitely believe in love at first sight too.

Unfortunately, the conversation quickly fell apart for me. The topics were scattered and I frequently did not know

Perhaps no decision, in the end, is right or wrong. All decisions are just decisions. They are just taking one more step in the garden of forking paths – they lead to the same place in the end.
Atharv G.
Nov 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
I also posted this review on my book blog:

Having read and enjoyed Nine Continents and A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by this author, I was excited to see what Guo’s latest novel had to offer. This novel seems to be a retelling of Dictionary, but moved a decade or so into the future to Britain just after the Brexit referendum. Like in the other two works I’ve read by Guo, the main character is a young woman who has moved to London from China to pursue a PhD. Like in Dictionary,
Pamela Usai
Jan 01, 2021 rated it liked it
Narrating the story of a Chinese woman studying for her dissertation in London, "A Lover's Discourse" unabashedly explores the struggles and discoveries of being a foreigner in politically tumultuous post-Brexit Europe. After her parents pass away, our unnamed protagonist leaves her old life behind, and does not have high hopes of a life beyond academics. However, after meeting an Australian - British - German architect, who convinces her to live on a boat moored in London, she slowly begins to ...more
Mallory Flynn
Dec 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 rounded down. Simply one of the most human books I’ve ever read. A reminder that just because a book doesn’t have over a 4-star rating, or hasn’t been reviewed by all of bookstagram, it doesn’t mean it won’t be one of the most worthwhile things you’ve read in awhile, a read you can’t put down.
claire brigden
Dec 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
i do love a brexit novel
Aug 03, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020-books
It's a lovely book - a collection of vignettes rather than a typical novel - but if you have read several of Xiaolu Guo's novels before this one, you will find it rather similar to her most recent publications. Many of the vignettes are quite poetic and beautifully written, thoughts on love, belonging, fitting into a new environment, learning a language. Then some others just feel a bit forced, a bit pretentious in a way - using every flimsy pretext to throw in some more or less obscure referenc ...more
Dec 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
A Lover’s Discourse by Xiaolu Guo tells the relationship between a Chinese woman studying for PhD in Britain and an Australian landscape architect with British and German lineage. Through the fragments of conversations between two lovers, the writer gives the reader a story of love in the time of Brexit campaign. The narrator recounts her first encounter with her lover, their romantic life and the time living on a boat in London canal as well as their parenthood.

In fact, the story is quite ordin
Emily Grace
- Once love is brought down to earth, and weighed, it's over, it's dead.
- But don't you agree that real love is the love that's brought down to earth? It's only real when it's mixed up with dirt and sweat. Otherwise, it's just for puppies and adolescents!

A Lover's Discourse is the story of a young Chinese immigrant after she moves to London mid-Brexit to pursue her PhD. After moving to England she finds herself lonely and isolated after the recent deaths of her parents, a lack of friendship
Feb 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize, this novel has a fragmented style, chopped up into small passages that are nevertheless linear. The narrative voice is strong, giving the point of view of Chinese woman who has come to a UK in the throes of Brexit in order to complete a PhD in anthropology focusing on a Chinese village which has turned the copying of great works of art into a cottage industry. The main focus is on a relationship she embarks on with a German/Australian/Englishman and as the t ...more
Dec 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Lover's Discourse is a unique book, not a typical romance or love story. The writing style is beautiful and lyrical. The story were told from a woman's perspective and each section comes with a short quote / point from the story.

A love story between a Chinese postgraduate student, who arrived in London during the Brexit referendum and a landscape architect who is half Australian and half German. Despite the cultural differences, nothing seems to stop them from overcome the barrier. I really e
Jan 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2021, london
A Lover’s Discourse by Xiaolu Guo

I went into this novel fairly blind beyond the fact that I knew it was an “exploration of romantic love told through fragments of conversations between two lovers.” I really love reading stories like this (Normal People by Sally Rooney of course comes to mind as a prime example.)

While this book is very different from Normal People, being most notably that it is even more fragmented, I still really admired this book’s realistic take on a modern relationship
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Xiaolu Guo (Simplified Chinese: 郭小櫓 pinyin:guō xiǎo lǔ, born 1973) is a Chinese novelist and filmmaker. She utilizes various media, including film and writing, to tell stories of alienation, introspection and tragedy, and to explore China's past, present and future in an increasingly connected world.

Her novel A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers was nominated for the 2007 Orange Prize f

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“It was the same feeling I had when I first got to Britain. How many times could one restart a life?
“I read that in China, people will transplant large number of trees and bring them to the newly developed cities. Chinese people seem to be very adaptable, like the trees.” You were trying to comfort me.
“Yes, but once the trees grew older, you can’t transplant them again. The roots are too embedded into the ground.”
“It’s very interesting to see her so not afraid of admitting she thinks being Chinese is forever being a second class citizen in a western country, while so not feeling ashamed and feeling it’s okay to write it in a book and educate the Brits on Chinese culture.
I feel I could do that in England but not here in America, where I feel I’m second class citizen not because people don’t understand Chinese culture (there are so many of us), but even after they understood it, they still decided to think we are second class citizen.”
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