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THE PREGNANT WIDOW
by Martin Amis
Cape, 18.99 [pounds sterling], pp. 470, ISBN 9780224076128
[telephone] 15.19 [pounds sterling] (plus 2.45 [pounds sterling] p&p) 0870 429 6655
For those unfamiliar with Martin Amis's short story, 'What Happened to Me on My Holiday', written for The New Yorker in 1997, it was a purist exercise in autobiographical fiction; not even the names were changed.
The Pregnant Widow is a far more complex, troubling piece of work. Amis did indeed spend much of the summer after his second year at Oxford in a castle near the Mediterranean, though not in Tuscany; that would come later. In the novel, the grand residence belongs to an acquaintance of an acquaintance of Lily, Keith Nearing's girlfriend, and in the real world the chateau on the Cote d'Azur to which Amis and Gully Wells repaired was owned by a distant member of the Wells family.
Gully and Lily. How do I know? I'll be honest; Martin told me. But for anyone even remotely apprised of his life, the parallels between fact and fiction are glaring and abundant.
Rob Henderson, Amis's anarchic, self-destructive best friend from the late Sixties and early Seventies appears as Kenrik. Nicholas, Keith's brother, is without doubt Philip, Martin's elder sibling, …