The Pregnant Widow: Book summary and reviews of The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis

The Pregnant Widow

A Novel

By Martin Amis

The Pregnant Widow
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  • Published in USA  May 2010,
    400 pages.

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Book Summary

The year is 1970, and the youth of Europe are in the chaotic, ecstatic throes of the sexual revolution. Though blindly dedicated to the cause, its nubile foot soldiers have yet to realize this disturbing truth: that between the death of one social order and the birth of another, there exists a state of terrifying purgatory—or, as Alexander Herzen put it, a pregnant widow.

Keith Nearing is stuck in an exquisite limbo. Twenty years old and on vacation from college, Keith and an assortment of his peers are spending the long hot summer in a well-appointed castle in Italy. He’s accompanied by his girlfriend, Lily, who is shrewd, witty, attractive and utterly eclipsed by her guileless friend Scheherazade, whose family owns the place. Scheherazade is slender, blond, impossibly long-legged and ravishingly beautiful, and her primary summertime goal is to achieve a completely uninterrupted tan. Keith, of course, is hopelessly and desperately in love with her, though he’s marginally successful at convincing Lily that her friend just isn't his type. These three are soon joined in their idyll by a number of unique and memorable characters: Adriano, a young Italian count as full of virile confidence as he is lacking in stature; the pretty, doomed Kenrik; the spectacularly dissolute Rita; the adolescent Conchita and her enormously fat caretaker, Dodo; Scheherazade’s boyfriend, Timmy, an obliviously earnest evangelist; and Gloria Beautyman, whose militantly ladylike veneer conceals a nature far stranger and more deceitful than anyone could ever guess.

The tragicomedy of manners that ensues will have an indelible effect on all its participants, and we witness, too, how it shapes Keith's subsequent love life for decades to come. Bitingly funny, full of wit and pathos, The Pregnant Widow is a trenchant portrait of young lives being carried away on a sea of change.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"As if these weren’t clues enough to Keith’s real identity – Amis also turned 21 in 1970 and, after Oxford, got his first job at the TLS – he is obsessed with his height. Like Amis, Keith occupies that 'much-disputed territory between five-foot-six and five-foot-seven'." - The Telegraph (UK)

"A hostile reading of The Pregnant Widow might be that it blames Keith's moral quasi-degradation and failure as a poet on too close or too early an ­association with naughty ladies. A more sympathetic one would be that the novel portrays the 70s as the ground zero of a narcissistic baby-boomer culture that coarsened both sexes, a culture in which Amis's writerly enterprise is implicated too." - The Guardian (UK)

"At moments like these, Amis is a powerful writer, but the vast majority of The Pregnant Widow is a self-obsessed irrelevance, leaving the reader with a monumental feeling of 'so what?'" - The Independent (UK)

"A potentially stunning novel ends up containing the familiar ratio of what is good and bad in Amis’s writing, the usual mix of Amis gems and Amis junk." - The Times (UK)

"Starred Review. After the disappointment of Yellow Dog and the relative slimness of The House of Meetings, this smart, meaty novel is a revelation." - Publishers Weekly

"Earthy, passionate, literate, and poignant; pick this for your highbrow beach read." - Library Journal

"Amid this 'erotically decisive summer,' the reader's frustration becomes almost as great as Keith's, as extended discourses on literature, life and religion lead to little resolution, literary or otherwise." - Kirkus Reviews

"Starred Review. Amid droll banter and hilariously raunchy episodes, immensely gifted and piquantly mercurial Amis ponders, in passages of surpassing eloquence, beauty, time, self, deception, “the winepress of death,” and the abiding light of literature, deepening the valence of this charmingly provocative and philosophical comedy of desire." - Booklist

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Author Information

Martin Amis Author Biography

Photo: Isabel Fonseca

Martin Amis was born Martin Louis Amis on 25 August 1949, the second of three children to Kingsley and Hilary (Hilly) Amis (nee Bardwell). He is the author of twelve previous novels, the memoir Experience, two collections of stories and six of nonfiction. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Link to Martin Amis's Website

Name Pronunciation
Martin Amis: AIM-as

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