Vintage have reissued five Scottish novels as Vintage Classics, to mark the twentieth anniversary of Alan Warner’s debut, Morvern Callar. The publishers were kind enough to send me a set, and I thought I’d start with the anniversary book itself.
At the start of the novel, Morvern Callar discovers that her boyfriend (to whom she refers as ‘Him’) has killed himself. Straight away, I was reminded of how the simplest sentences can do the strangest things:
I came back towards the scullery then took a running jump over the dead body. The sink was full of dishes so I had to give them all a good rinse. The face was by my bare foot. I fitted the kettle spout under the tap. Then I put my underwear over the spout and tugged the elastic round the sides. When the kettle boiled I put the warm knickies on. I jumped back over Him ready to throw the kettle away, after all you don’t want to scald your legs.
The whole opening sequence is like this: a sequence of (mostly) straightforward actions, described quite plainly. But, of course, it raises questions – most of all, why is Morvern so calm in the face of this apparently sudden tragedy? Already, Warner has drawn me in.
Book details (Foyles affiliate link)
Morvern Callar (1995) by Alan Warner, Vintage Classics paperback