The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I can see why some reviewers had a problem with this book. It’s talky, and there doesn’t seem to be much going on.
But that’s also kind of what I loved about it. It was just what the doctor ordered for the start of the summer: a funny book about a bunch of characters who seem like they’d be good fun to hang out with, which is basically what I did for the month I took reading it.
I’m a huge fan of Martin Amis–as in, ‘favorite living author’ huge–and that probably biases my review of this book a bit. His style strikes all the right chords with me. Reading it was like drinking a really great cocktail, and not getting a hangover.
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The last novel I finished reading was Other People by my hero Martin Amis. It wasn’t his best showing. It was one of his early novels, and it feels like he struggled with the storytelling aspect of the novel. His trademark style (hard, accurate prose, black humor) was taking shape, but it took one more novel to cement his talents.
His next novel was Money, and it remains one of his best (some critics and fans argue that it is his best).
The story of Other People involves a woman waking up in the emergency room with no memory of how she got there. She can’t remember who she is, her name, where she lives, or virtually anything else beyond how to breathe, walk, and speak. This device is partially what allows Amis to really flex his stylistic muscle. He gets to show the reader the world through the eyes of someone with a completely different perspective, a woman who doesn’t necessarily know the proper words for things or the proper functions of common items: shoes become ‘devices,’ and so on.
What narrative drive there is comes from the desire to figure out who she was and what happened to her, and it doesn’t quite pay off. I read it and finished it because I love the way Amis writes, not because the of the story.