Timothy Childs's Reviews > The Pregnant Widow

The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis
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Jun 13, 2010

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Read from June 13 to 15, 2010

For about ninety percent of its length, "The Pregnant Widow", by Martin Amis, has the sixty-year-old Keith Nearing recalling the summer of1970, which he spent in Italy at the age of twenty. The narrator seems to spend every waking moment thinking about sex – how he has it with his girlfriend on a nightly basis, how the Classic English novels he’s reading can be reinterpreted as being based on sex, and – most importantly – how he will seduce his girlfriend’s best friend, who sports the unbelievable name of Scheherazade.

All this against the background of the sexual revolution, in which the girls decided to be boys (i.e. act toward sex as males do); in fact, in this book, the very best girls are referred to as “cocks”. Having lived through the American sexual revolution, I can attest that, by comparison, the English version was tame, indeed.

But they did think about it a lot: sex is discussed on virtually every page, yet almost never is a sexual act described. Amis is English, of course, and presumably more comfortable keeping emotional things at a safe distance. As I discuss elsewhere (iBlogBroadway.com), modern English writers/playwrights rarely write “in your face”, which seems odd, since Shakespeare certainly did.

I mean, can you imagine Polonius’ describing Hamlet's soliloquies, rather than Hamlet’s speaking them?

Interspersed with all this thinking about sex are flash-forwards to the present time, to let us know how Keith has done in the intervening years. Not so well, I gathered, which suggests he’s been looking back in an effort to discover where he went wrong. And we get a lot of philosophy, though why we’d pay attention to Keith’s philosophical musings is never made clear, so I didn’t.

Still, sex has its fascination, even when it’s just being discussed, and Martin Amis is a clever writer. I give “The Pregnant Widow” a qualified recommendation, and am willing to bet you’ll skim through parts of it.
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3GirlsMom I would have loved to skip ahead but unfortunately I was listening to an audiobook version mostly while commuting. Probably never would have finished the actual book

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