TagMorvern Callar

Morvern Callar: the strangeness of ordinary lives

A nonchalant reaction to her partner’s dead body wasn’t the half of it. Morvern Callar gets ever more unsettling: the protagonist takes full advantage of the sudden windfall she receives from her partner’s bequest, eschewing her supermarket job for a holiday in Spain, and submitting his draft novel to publishers under her own name. Some of the things that Morvern does are more understandable than others; but they all need rationalising after the fact, because she’s in no hurry to explain herself to us.

What I find particularly striking about Warner’s novel is the way that it highlights how strange an ordinary life may appear to those observing it from outside. Morvern refers to her friends and acquaintances by an array of nicknames: entirely natural to her, of course – as it would be to us in her position – but bewildering when you don’t have the key. The whole sense of Morvern Callar is that a secret world of connections and history likes just over there, if only we could reach it.

Book details (Foyles affiliate link)

Morvern Callar (1995) by Alan Warner, Vintage Classics paperback

Morvern Callar: first impressions

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

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