A novel of searing intelligence and startling originality, Lost in Translation heralds the debut of a unique new voice on the literary landscape. Nicole Mones creates an unforgettable story of love and desire, of family ties and human conflict, and of one woman's struggle to lose herself in a foreign land - only to discover her home, her heart, herself.
At dawn in Beijing, Alice Mannegan pedals a bicycle through the deserted streets. An American by birth, a translator by profession, she spends her nights in Beijing's smoke-filled bars, and the Chinese men she so desires never misunderstand her intentions. All around her rushes the air of China, the scent of history and change, of a world where she has come to escape her father's love and her own pain. It is a world in which, each night as she slips from her hotel, she hopes to lose herself forever.
For Alice, it began with a phone call from an American archaeologist seeking a translator. And it ended in an intoxicating journey of the heart - one that would plunge her into a nation's past, and into some of the most rarely glimpsed regions of China. Hired by an archaeologist searching for the bones of Peking Man, Alice joins an expedition that penetrates a vast, uncharted land and brings Professor Lin Shiyang into her life. As they draw closer to unearthing the secret of Peking Man, as the group's every move is followed, their every whisper recorded, Alice and Lin find shelter in each other, slowly putting to rest the ghosts of their pasts. What happens between them becomes one of the most breathtakingly erotic love stories in recent fiction.
Indeed, Lost in Translation is a novel about love - between a nation and its past, between a man and a memory, between a father and a daughter. It's powerful impact confirms the extraordinary gifts of a master storyteller, Nicole Mones.
©1999 Nicole Mones (P)2010 Audible, Inc.
"The key to the novel's success is Mones's in-depth knowledge of China's culture, history, and politics. The question of cultural identity is at the core of her tale, and she skillfully weaves various aspects of Chinese life--from ancestor worship to the Cultural Revolution - into the personal relationships of her characters. By novel's end, readers have discovered a great deal about archeology, China, and most especially about the unmapped territories of memory, desire, and identity. Lost in Translation is a fine first novel, the first salvo of a promising literary career." (Amazon.com review)
I'll be honest, when I bought this, I was taking a punt at an unknown writer, with material unknown to me. I listened to the free sample, and I really liked the narrators voice. Over some 8 years and 500 plus books, I've worked it out that spending 10 hours or so with someone who's voice you can't stand is a special kind of hell. A bad narrator can kill even the finest written work.
No fears here, Angela Lin is superb, getting the awkward Chinese pronunciations on the nail, and carrying the whole thing forward in a most satisfactory way.
The writing is slick, and powerful, and to my eyes and ears anyway, seems pretty accurate and believable. I felt I learned a little about recent Chinese history and got a fair glimpse into the country, which hitherto has been a closed book for me, even though I've been there twice:)
This is excellent fare, one of the top ten this year, for me.
A few years ago, I lived in Beijing for 4 months with my Chinese American husband. Having studied a little Chinese myself, and having experienced a bit of the life of an ex-pat woman in China, I was drawn to this book because I have rarely read about a similar topic.
I liked this book on a lot of levels, but there were also things that could have been better. First, the good: It is a simply marvelous depiction of modern China and the cultural clashes between old and new, East and West, that continue to play themselves out, even more than ten years since the book was written. The author obviously knows a LOT about China. In addition, the fact that the narrator had flawless Mandarin tones made the listening experience so very satisfying too, as I was able to pick up words here and there. I always like love stories, especially cross-cultural ones, and the love story here did not fail to please. It was satisfying, too, that the main characters were not perfect individuals but were both very damaged in their own ways. One of the final scenes, in which Lin confronts Alice about her many love affairs with Chinese men, is a searing indictment of the America sexual fetish for Asians, but with a gender bender: the person who chases after Chinese lovers is a woman, not a man.
I am only giving this book 4 stars because I felt that some parts of the plot were unrealistic or far-fetched and some of the characters (Spencer, especially), were underdeveloped. But as this is primarily a sketch of place, not of character, I'd still recommend the book for anyone who wants to learn more about modern China and the place of Wai Guo Ren (foreigners) in the Middle Kingdom.
Do you read the book before you dislike my reviews?
After reading The Last Chinese Chef, I was interested at reading more from this author. Nicole Mones does a good job at explaining the Chinese culture and bringing up the complexity of interracial relationships that is common in the western world.
Instead of writing about mindless romantic fluff, "Lost in Translation" is about an American woman going to work in China and having a relationship with a native man while she is there. The Chinese man has a different expectation from the American woman and vice versa. The culture differences in their relationship is not obvious for the reader, but one can feel the tension as you get into the story more.
This author brings up issues with mix relationships especially in the Asian culture, but she writes in a way where the relationship's issue shadows the plot of the story. Maybe too subtle at times for the audience to get the message, but if you are from an Asian descent you will recognize the diversity in the relationships.
EveLynn in Wisconsin
For some reason this book read almost like a movie. I could picture each of the characters and even the places they visited and the circumstances of each of their lives. One of my favorite Audible choices. I read audible when I ride in the car or walk. This book inspired me to drive and walk.
This is perhaps the first novel written about the post cultural rev period focusing on Chinese men from an American womens perspective. Much ring true in my experience, I was over there in 1996 hanging with my wifes old boy friends, this is the first novel I have read that
looks at certain aspects of China unknown to most Americans. The story was engaging also, not bad from a lady that specializes in cook books.
Mommy of twins
A good hearty fiction read, LOST IN TRANSLATION is beautifully told with an abundance of interesting facts about modern day Chinese culture, ancient customs, language, geography and history. Funny enough I didn’t particularly like the protagonist Alice Mannegan (daughter to a raciest U.S. Congressman); but I found myself taken in by the impassioned story telling of Nicole Mones, through the eyes of the unmarried 30 something American woman who resides in Beijing and works as a translator.
With so many fascinating details, it is clear Mones put some effort and serious time into researching the Chinese people and their traditions. Written almost as if a love letter to China; LOST IN TRANSLATION is mysterious, political, sexy and romantic.
Angela Lin's narration, in both English and Chinese, truly and skillfully brings Alice’s voice to life.
If the purpose of this book is to educate the reader on present day China, its recent past and its people, it is well worth reading. If it is to relate the reader to its treasure hunt, its love affair and to the cast of the story it is less recommendable as it takes an awfully long time to wade through.
And now for something a little different, that's how I think about this book. Without the excellent narration it might have been three star. With it -- the interweaving of the Chinese phrases, the well-done Texas accent (occasional) and the fitting cadence with which the main characters speak -- it's pleasurable. The American interpreter's struggle with her identity is authentic much of the time, but her desire to escape her father's racism (and the country she associates with it) is highly over-played, and often feels implausible. The hunt for Peking Man is fun. The suspense well maintained. The love story feels like a secondary thread, but it's not clear it was intended.
I loved everything about this book except the main character's relationship with her father. (If she hated being associated with him so much, all she had to do was change her surname. ) Other than that, I though this was a fascinating story, multilayered which is something I always enjoy. I learned about Chinese history and culture, archeology, Teilhard De Chardin, and got to enjoy a good tale about how messy, difficult, and challenging life is, yet with hope.
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