The Pregnant Widow

By Martin Amis (Knopf, $26.95)

Parul Sehgal, Time Out New York / Issue 763 : May 13–19, 2010

For all its ambition and verbal pyrotechnics, Martin Amis’s The Pregnant Widow is basically a book about boys and girls—or rather, one boy and many girls. It’s Amis’s most nakedly autobiographical novel since The Rachel Papers, and when the narrator tells us, “Everything that follows is true,” it isn’t difficult to believe that Amis himself passed—as the book’s Keith Nearing does—a sexually transformative and traumatizing summer in a castle in Italy on the cusp of the 1970s. And it’s not just any castle—it’s where D.H. and Freida Lawrence once vacationed. The book is drenched in allusion, not least because twentysomething Keith is a sad young literary man reading his way through the canon of the English novel. When, that is, he’s not having dull sex with his dull girlfriend, Lily, and mooning over her pneumatic (and ponderously named) best friend, Scheherazade.

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