Guo is an unsparing noticer. She paints a vivid but unflattering portrait of her new dwelling in her adopted country ... The truthfulness and accuracy of Guo’s language gives the book mischief and energy. There are shades of Lydia Davis in her carefully etched sentences as she details the ups and downs of the relationship without sentimentality ... What propels the book forward is in part the sense of suspense that hangs over the nascent relationship: Has our heroine made an enormous mistake getting together with an itchy-footed boat lover? But there’s also something compelling about the breadth of the world the narrator inhabits. The book moves briskly from the canals of North London to Scotland, Australia, Germany and China. Along the way, it’s capacious enough to touch on moments of real darkness, while somehow managing to be mordant, funny and, ultimately, life-affirming ... Guo gives her characters scope to live and suffer, so her book’s final affirmation has a hard-won quality that carries weight.
The novelist, memoirist and film-maker Xiaolu Guo writes with tremendous delicacy and nuance about migration, language, alienation, and love ... Each short chapter — averaging perhaps three pages — is a tiny resonant moment from which Guo draws usually for questions rather than answers, to end in doubt and distance. They are almost the equivalents in prose of Larkin’s more dramatic poems ... There is a certain overlap between the writing of Guo and other, especially female, authors from the Chinese diaspora such as Yiyun Li and Chia-Chia Lin: the superb poetic quality of the prose, the pessimism, the themes of family.
Guo uses language to play with cultural clashes, be it between the narrator and life in post-Brexit Britain or between the narrator and 'you' ... Even in the book’s quieter and seemingly unimportant moments, Guo moves with her thoughts on language ... Guo writes with a directness and honesty that suits the narrator’s sensibility, but with an intelligence and depth that constantly forces the reader to think ... moving and affecting; the language lingers.