Morvern Callar / Edition 1by Alan Warner
Pub. Date: 02/28/1997
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Morvern Callar, a low-paid employee in the local supermarket in a desolate and beautiful port town in the west of Scotland, wakes one morning in late December to find her strange boyfriend has committed suicide and is dead on the kitchen floor. Morvern's reaction is both intriguing and immoral. What she does next is even more appalling. Moving across a blurred European landscape-from rural poverty and drunken mayhem of the port to the Mediterranean rave scene-we experience everything from Morvern's stark, unflinching perspective.
Morvern is utterly hypnotizing from her very first sentence to her last. She rarely goes anywhere without the Walkman left behind as a Christmas present by her dead boyfriend, and as she narrates this strange story, she takes care to tell the reader exactly what music she is listening to, giving the stunning effect of a sound track running behind her voice.
In much the same way that Patrick McCabe managed to tell an incredibly rich and haunting story through the eyes of an emotionally disturbed boy in The Butcher Boy, Alan Warner probes the vast internal emptiness of a generation by using the cool, haunting voice of a female narrator lost in the profound anomie of the ecstasy generation. Morvern is a brilliant creation, not so much memorable as utterly unforgettable."
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Of all the 'new' Scottish novelists, Alan Warner is absolutely the very best. This, his first novel, opens with the title heroine, Morvern Callar finding her boyfriend dead on the kitchen floor after slitting his own throat. Morvern is someone no one would want to be, a member of the Scottish 'working class,' a woman for whom life holds no promise other than sex, music and liquor, and, in time, even those will fade. So, in a life devoid of hope, Morvern does what might seem illogical to someone not caught in her circumstances: she buries her boyfriend's body, cleans out his bank account and even submits his novel to a London publisher under her own name. All this before quitting her own dead-end job and heading down to the Spanish Mediterranean for more sex, music and liquor. That's all. There is no 'hopefully more,' in Morvern Callar's world. Although Morvern may appear callous and amoral she is anything but. Warner, who captures the 'voice' of his protagonists so perfectly (see These Demented Lands and The Sopranos) has captured the very essence of Morvern Callar. There is an inescapable sorrow in Morvern that all of her coolness and hipness cannot hide. This is a real person, one who is gentle and caring with her girlfriend's grandmother and her own foster father. Morvern sees herself reflected in the wrung-out lives of her elders. Her temporary escape to the warmer, more sunny climes of the Mediterranean are a desperate attempt to grab what little escape she can, and, because of this very desperation, these scenes take on a hellish, almost surreal quality. We know, as does Morvern, that whatever release she is feeling at the moment will only magnify the emptiness of her life in the long run. A clue to Morvern's personality is her favorite video: Antonioni's 'The Passenger,' a tale about a man who tries to make a new life by switching identities with a dead man. A master writer, and a master at characterization, Warner never resorts to melodrama in portraying the bleakness of Morvern's life or in her reaction to it. He simply tells it like it is...exactly. And that is part of what makes this novel so perfect. Although Morvern's life is filled with hopelessness and despair, she, herself, is a woman filled with feeling, a true heroine in the finest sense of the word. Even though Morvern tries desperately to deaden the feelings that are killing her, she fails to do so. Obviously, Morvern Callar is a character-driven novel and Morvern, herself, is fascinating enough to carry us along. There really is very little plot in the book to speak of, although Warner does hide some obtuse symbolism here and there. If Morvern, herself, weren't enough to intrigue even the most jaded reader, Warner's writing is so good that it alone makes this book worth reading even if, by some strange chance, you don't like Morvern. Ultimately depressing and without hope, Morvern Callar will no doubt sadly appeal only to a very limited, and very literary, audience, those who read and love Irvine Welsh, for instance. This is too bad, since Warner is a brilliant and polished writer and one whose work deserves a much more widespread readership.
Her boyfriend is lying dead on the floor... and she does nothing. She leaves, looking for fun. And amazing first novel. Powerfull writing. In about twenty years this is gonna be a clssic.
This is a debut novel by some Scottish dude (I seem to have a strange affinity for all things Scottish. Could be a previous life...) Anyway, I'd like to recommend it because it truly sucked me in and keep me turning pages and it is so rare to find a book like that. Morvern is such a crazy character. She is this totally independent, self reliant person whose actions are shocking and still somehow understandable. Trouble is the dialog and setting. She's a young, underprivileged Scottish girl who ends up living at the rave scene in the Mediterranean. I had to re-read passages, the etymology continually tripped me up, and the music references went totally over my head but still, I want to recommend it. True, the ending did leave me expecting a bit more from Morvern. All that being said, if anyone has any interest in tackling it, I think it's worth every moment, and it's not a long book overall