The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai, By Ruiyan Xu

Battle for affection loses something in translation
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The Independent Culture

Ruiyan Xu's debut novel brings China and the US into focus when businessman Li Jing suffers brain damage in an explosion in Shanghai, and a US neurologist, Rosalyn, is flown in to help his speech: he has forgotten Chinese and can only speak in the English he learnt as a child.

At times, the novel becomes a battle between two women, Rosalyn and Li's wife, Meiling, for his love: Rosalyn, lonely after a divorce, seeks solace, and Meiling struggles to cope with her strange and newly injured husband. At other times, the novel is a father-son lament.

Xu's present tense narrative is distracting – past tense flashbacks show how much better that tense would have suited the whole novel.

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