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