My comments from Orange July 2010:
Comments: I bought this book after hearing so many positive, interesting comments about it. But then I started hearing negative comments--and from people who I usually agreed with. Yikes! But I gave the book a try anyway, and was pleasantly surprised.
Yes, the main character Z gets herself into a relationship with a man that no sane woman would touch with a proverbial 10-foot pole. Yes, she is waaaaay too fixated on men and sex, and acts toward this part of her life in what seems to me a very unrealistic manner. But . . .
I really liked how the novel was structured by months, and then by dictionary words and definitions within each month. I liked how you could follow her progress as her English skills developed. I really liked the cultural comparisons between China and the west, and how she showed strengths and weaknesses of both. The other really strong point of this novel was the Z's voice. Not her cutesy mistakes, but her actual Chinese English. Living in Vancouver I've always gone to school and worked with many Chinese people. Most books that attempt to capture the Chinese voice utterly fail, in my opinion. It usually comes off sounding like something out of a bad Hollywood sitcom. In this novel, Z sounded authentically Chinese, and not just like someone playing Chinese.
Rating: Right now, I'm giving it 4 stars for capturing the language right and for the cultural observations. I might decide to knock back half a star if I think about it and the silly storyline irritates me.
Recommended for: readers who are looking for something different and enjoy cultural observations in their fiction reading.
Why I Read This Now: it was the Orange prize book that fell into my lap.