The Pregnant Widow – Martin Amis

Pregnant_Widow_by_Martin_AmisREAD FOR BOOKCLUB

Chosen by Rachel

The setting for The Pregnant Widow is a pastoral Italian castle in a hot dry summer. Here, beautiful young people are draped around the pool, smoking cigarettes, drinking wine, discussing literature, sex and freedoms. It is 1970, the start of the sexual revolution and characters are barely dressed, eyeing one another up, and thinking about who they’d like to have intercourse with.

It a sensual and decadent setting with fervent, hot-blooded characters designed to draw the reader directly in. Martin Amis has referenced the book as being autobiographical so perhaps he is the book’s main character Keith.

Keith is one three students from the University of London who have come to stay in the Italian country side. He is an aspiring poet who drops literary references often as a means to impress, not only his girlfriend, Lily but also one of the other guests, a beautiful 20-year-old blonde named Scheherazade who he becomes obsessed with.

Critics lambast Keith’s objectification of the female characters, but apparently the point is at that mens sexual desires did not change in the revolution, they had always and continue to look at women lustfully with a desire to bed them, but it was at this time when females began to pursue their desires, too and be aggressive in their yearning for sexual pleasure, just like men.

The title of the book is borrowed from the Russian writer Alexander Herzen and refers to an old structure being replaced by a new one: “The departing world leaves behind it not an heir but a pregnant widow.”

And Keith felt it again (he felt it several times a day): the tingle of license. Everyone could swear now, if they wanted to. The word *fuck* was available to both sexes. It was like a sticky toy, and it was there if you wanted it.

The sensual and decadent setting of The Pregnant Widow, with its fervent, hot-blooded characters, its freedoms and its care-free air made this a real page turner. Our overall views on the characters and their behaviours differed but there is no doubt that Amis has a beautifully crafted writing style and the ability to create real atmosphere and capture a slice of a history.


Published 2011
480 pages

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