It was summer 1970 - a long, hot summer. In a castle in Italy, half a dozen young lives are afloat on the sea of change, trapped inside the history of the sexual revolution. The girls are acting like boys, and the boys are going on acting like boys, and Keith Nearing - twenty years old, a literature student all clogged up with the English novel - is struggling to twist feminism and the rise of women towards his own ends.
The sexual revolution wasn't bloodless - and now, in the twenty-first century, the year 1970 finally catches up with Keith Nearing.
The Pregnant Widow is a comedy of manners and Martin Amis at his fearless best.
©2010 Martin Amis (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
Having purchased this, I walked carefully around it for some considerable time. I had never read Martin Amis, and although I knew it was high time I did, I felt somewhat nervous.
I eventually got started, and, oh, what a surprise, what an eye-opener! This is not so much a read as an experience. What you might call a life experience. Another way of looking at life. On an initial level, it centres around a bunch of students having what to all appearances is a gap year in Italy, where they all stay in a castle. It is a good time, as Keith Nearing eventually realises, the time of his life. He comes to see that they are the generation that had it all. Everything. 'Though, they probably did not realise it at the time.
To describe this as 'A Hoot', sells it short. It is, at times, laugh out loud funny; it is, as described, a comedy of manners; a growing, a realising that life is never going to be the same again.
I simply loved it. What it did for me, was to send me to the bookshops, to find some more of this incredible man. Some more that I can read and savour for myself, because although I really enjoyed Steven Pacey's rendition of this, I always prefer to read the really good things. Paint my own pictures. It is so easy to go back and 'Do it Again' when you have the book in your hand.
But thanks anyway Audible, without you I would never have tried it in the first place.
Martin Amis' latest book is arguably a throwback to some of his earlier work. It is not the savagely funny satire of 'Money' or 'London Fields', rather it's a comedy of sexual manners set against the changing attitudes and sexual mores starting in the 1970s - the Pregnant Widow of the title is, as it were, between the death of the old age and the birth of the new. The first half of the book is engaging and funny, sometime painfully so, but he rather loses his way in the second half when he seeks to follow what happens to his various characters - his mix of seriousness and humour just doesn't gel that well, and structurally the book becomes unbalanced as he appears to rush through the years.
Still, all that said, it's an interesting and enjoyable book - I dont think Martin Amis could write a dull sentence if his life depended on it. And with Stephen Pacey, who has narrated several of Amis' earlier books, in top-notch form, Pregant Widows makes for a splendid audiobook which holds the attention easily right the way to the end.
Not vintage Amis but still well worth a listen.
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