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The Pregnant WidowReview - The Pregnant Widow
by Martin Amis
BBC Audiobooks America, 2010
Review by Christian Perring
Oct 7th 2010 (Volume 14, Issue 40)

Martin Amis is much out of fashion these days, and his books get at best mixed reviews.  This is certainly true of his latest novel, The Pregnant Widow.  It is set in 1970, following its protagonist Keith and his friends spending the summer during their universities years at a castle in Italy.  They are reaping the benefits of the sexual revolution, but Keith is still lusting for women he can't have.  His girlfriend is Lily, yet he is not focused on her: he spends his time thinking about the taller and bigger breasted Scheherazade.  His task over the summer is to read many novels, and he gets some of his companions reading and discussing them too, especially regarding the sex lives of the characters.  Although there's lots of sexual discussion and thinking, it is a long way from an erotic novel and it is hardly even a novel about sex.  Keith's main sex life over the summer is with Lily and we are told little about that.  It's more about sexual thoughts and longing with a long cast of characters to display a wide range of different types of people and their interaction.  The novel is enriched by Keith's perspective from the present, reflecting back on that summer and what happened to everyone afterwards, and the suggestion that Amis has based the characters on real people makes this particular interesting. 

Maybe the trick to enjoying this novel is having low expectations: it is lively and ribald, yet at the same time quite high minded.  Listening to the audiobook read by Steven Pacey brings this out strongly: there's a "laddish" element to the writing that makes it fit in well with the current British literary scene of down-to-earth tales of everyday life, popularized by writers like Nick Hornby and Tony Parsons.  So this is no Ian McEwan or Kazuo Ishiguro, it combines a boyish energy with a middle aged wistfulness, and that makes it memorable.

 

Link:

Martin Amis website managed by Gavin Keulks

 

© 2010 Christian Perring        

 

 

Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York


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