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Ageing mirthlessly

Despite an array of puns and jokes, David Lodge's new novel contains uncharacteristically few laughs. All the same, it is a quietly brilliant study of deafness, death and linguistics

Deaf Sentence by David Lodge (Harvill Secker, £17.99)

“What a terrible title!” may be your first response, as it was mine, to David Lodge’s new novel. But hang on a minute: it’s better than you think. Obviously enough, a pun is being perpetrated. The first word of the phrase “death sentence” has been mispelled—or misheard—to create another phrase, “deaf sentence.” This slippage suggests two things: that going deaf is a bit like being handed a punishment; and that deafness has something in common with death. But the title’s punning possibilities don’t end there. The word “sentence” could be taken in…

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