May. 19th, 2013

commonpeople1: (Avatar)
Baby swim by Eythor
Baby swim, a photo by Eythor on Flickr.
I went swimming today and it was just as good as last week. 1pm on Sundays are the ideal time: lessons are finished and extra lanes are opened for free swimming; however, most people are either hung over or sleeping in, so the lanes tend to be empty!

I was spoiled when I learned to swim in Brasil. I was taught in an Olympic pool that was pristine and well-tended, with round-the-clock coaches happy to give you exercises and tips. You always had a lane to yourself.

Here in the UK, on the other hand, you have to share lanes usually with about 4 other people (optimistic outlook.) And at least 2 of them are in the wrong lane (should be in a slower one.) Plus, the pools are quite grim (just ask [livejournal.com profile] steer about the one we use in Bethnal Green) and the pool staff couldn't care less. I actually think most can't even swim - would hate to put my life in their hands if I suddenly had a cramp and sunk to the bottom...

But whatever... I have this hour on Sundays and I will try to stick to it. Feels good to let my thoughts wander and just go and go and go.

My boyfriend is currently in the kitchen, making cookies. In 11 minutes I'm going to embark on an hour-long writing session.
commonpeople1: (Avatar)
A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for LoversA Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers by Xiaolu Guo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Z, a young woman from a small village in China, is offered a trip to England by her parents so she can learn English and improve her prospects in life. She arrives in London during a typical grim winter in the mid-noughties, oblivious as to how to behave and comprehend this Western capital. Her hostel is dire and the students in her English course label her a pariah because of her inability to behave in a "Western" way.

Z spends most of her time trying to decode this new world with a Chinese-English dictionary - and the novel itself is also divided this way, with each chapter starting with a word and its dictionary definition (relevant to the chapter in question) that sheds light onto Z's uncovering of this world. Often, Z's misunderstandings are meant to be humorous, but because Z is such a nutter - and a slightly unsympathetic one - the humour is a misfire.

One evening, she strikes conversation with a much older man in a cinema and very soon she's his lover. He's a van driver and part-time artist based in Hackney. They fall madly in love, things get kinky, summer arrives, she travels across Europe under his suggestion (to improve her understanding of the West)... then things get complicated.

The novel is based on Xiaolu Guo's own experience of moving to London in 2002 and keeping a journal. There are some pleasures to be found in its description of Hackney, and an interesting twist relating to the older lover. The cover is deceptively chick lit - this novel is anything but.

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