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 castle in Italy. 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.
Amis revisits themes from his early novels sex, class resentment, lust, humiliation, obsession with the grim perceptiveness of experience in this fascinating return to form. It's 1970, and 20-year-old Keith Nearing is spending the summer in Italy with a small group of friends, primary among them on-again/off-again girlfriend Lily and her gorgeous, unfortunately named friend, Scheherazade. The easiness between Keith and Lily begins to crumble as Lily picks up on Keith's perhaps requited attraction to Scheherazade. As Lily torments Keith at first playfully, and later cruelly and Keith inches closer to pulling off an all-consuming sexual coup, Amis milks a surprising amount of tension from a fairly wispy plot: will Keith get Scheherazade into the sack? The second half, with its unexpected turns and brutal developments (it is never a good thing to be named "Keith" in an Amis novel), could enjoy an easier conjunction with the first half, but the prose is as brilliant as ever, and the cast is amazingly well done. After the disappointment of Yellow Dog and the relative slimness of The House of Meetings, this smart, meaty novel is a revelation.