A Lover’s Discourse by Xiaolu Guo

A Lover's Discourse by Xiaolu Guo

“It’s only when we have a second thought about our first sighted love, that we might change our mind. You might ask, why does this happen before one reaches midlife? I don’t have a theory yet, but I think when we are young, our impulses take over our mind. Romantic love is always an impulse in my case.”


A Lover’s Discourse by Xiaolu Guo tells the interracial relationship between a Chinese woman studying for PhD in Britain and a German-Australian landscape architect. 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 ordinary but the narrative is interesting here. The protagonist shares her views straightforwardly and when she argues with other person whether her lover or her professor, she firmly stands on her points. She ceaselessly analyses the things she encounters and unapologetically point out her opinions. In first few chapters, I was a little taken aback of her behaviour but as I continued reading, I began to enjoy the opinionatedness of her. Her incessant curiosity and her declamatory speeches are the things I became to admire of her.

In short and plain narrative, Guo talked about various issues—miscommunication due to language barrier and cultural differences, loneliness, sense of belonging, being rational yet hopeful, the struggle to make a relationship works, motherhood, etc. Quite a compelling read indeed with pithy statements. Though I don’t always agree with her opinions, I love how she makes me pause for awhile and ponder further.

This is my second book of her. I previously read her 20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth in Burmese translation but I’d like to read it back in English. Title of this novel, A Lover’s Discourse, is same as the French theorist Roland Barthes’s book and Guo extensively mentions Barther’s works and other notable literature in the book. Interesting read for me.


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