*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Title: A Lover’s Discourse
Author: Xiaolu Guo
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: October 23, 2020
Synopsis from Goodreads:
A Chinese woman moves from Beijing to London for a doctoral program-and to begin a new life-just as the Brexit campaign reaches a fever pitch. Isolated and lonely in a Britain increasingly hostile to foreigners, she meets a landscape architect and the two begin to build a life together. A Lover’s Discourse is an exploration of romantic love told through fragments of conversations between the two lovers. Playing with language and the cultural differences that her narrator encounters as she settles into life in post-Brexit vote Britain, the lovers must navigate their differences and their romance, whether on their unmoored houseboat or in a cramped and stifling apartment in east London.
What a great read to pick up over the holidays this December. A Lover’s Discourse expresses the inner musings and turmoil of a Chinese woman who has recently moved to England during the height of the Brexit campaign to complete her PhD. Her parents are both deceased and she is a woman without a family or friends in this foreign country. In her loneliness, she meets a man—German/Australian landscape architect—and their relationship ensues.
This novel collects their conversations into a series to outline the highs and lows of their unfolding relationship, alongside her dedication to completing her research and education and his struggles and successes in finding meaningful employment in his field. On so many levels, the two lovers connect and find profound joy in one another, but on the opposite site of the coin, they are from two astoundingly different worlds and schools of thought, so their conversations often turn the way of debate and disagreement. As is said many times, they will “agree to disagree.” This short soundbite chapters offer an insight into how they work through their differences and find romance in their every day.
Guo’s writing is stunning, to say the least. Reading her words is like breathing, simple yet innately beautiful and imbued with so much meaning. The woman’s insights and voice are poetic and the reader’s movement through each page is fluid, following the lyrical pitch of the words. Guo’s woman is a scholar studying art and reproduction. She takes a critical eye to the world around her, yet her narration itself is artful and creative. Merging her perspective as a Chinese immigrant with that of the English world around her and the deeply German influences that govern her lover’s being, the picture the speaker paints is beautiful, complex, and deeply influenced by culture.
This unique novel muses on everything from sex and relationships to motherhood, art, originality, cultural meaning and value, and creativity. It is an absolutely enchanting and thought-provoking experience to read. I don’t think it can fully be absorbed in one singular read. There’s so much to unpack and process. I’ll certainly be returning to it again in the future