My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I had a hard time deciding between two and three stars for this book--ultimately because I very much liked the first half and was extremely disappointed by the second. Lodge is a very skilled writer in that he blends linguistic commentary--which seems perfectly plausible for his narrator, a linguistics professor, to make as he relays the story--with a nuanced plot involving father-son, husband-wife, professor-student, and man-body relations. As a language lover, I adored these linguistic insights and looked forward to discovering them within the novel's various chapters, whether in the context of Desmond's deadpan observations or Alex Loom's bizarre thesis ideas (she is conducting a stylistic analysis of suicide notes). As a fiction lover, I enjoyed reading about the interactions between Desmond and his wife Fred, and anxiously awaited the outcome of his potential affair with Alex. And as a comedy lover, I was amused by the various mishaps that would occur as a result of Desmond's deafness.
Unfortunately, about halfway through the novel, the multiple strands of the novel lose their equal balance. Instead of juggling them, Lodge places all but one plot aside, and instead chooses to focus solely upon the relationship between Desmond and his father. Henceforth, that subplot takes precedence upon all others and carries the novel through to the end, with death serving as the climax and a conciliatory reunion between Fred and Desmond serving as the denouement. I found myself tremendously disappointed that linguistics and comedy took a backseat to this melodrama that, quite frankly, I cared much less about in the overall scope of the book.
Nevertheless, I did like Lodge's writing style very much in the first half of the book. And perhaps this novel was intended for a different sort of audience--maybe one who has lost their parent and likes linguistics. Therefore, I think I may give him another chance with his intriguing novel Thinks . . ..