Morvern Callar Paperback – Dec 3 2002
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Warner, one of the new "Scottish beat" writers like Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting), forcefully evokes the dreary life in a northern Scotland port town of Morvern Callar, whose name means "quieter silence" in Scottish. The book opens with Morvern's discovery of her boyfriend's body: a suicide on Christmas Eve. She opens her gifts, goes to her despised supermarket job, and pub hops that night. Unexpected reactions are Morvern's trademark and make her story fascinating. Directionless and disgusted at home, she uses money unexpectedly inherited from her boyfriend to return to the Mediterranean rave scene she had discovered on a trip to "Youth Med." In the end, she returns broke and still sullen. This may be the first novel with a soundtrack: Morvern acknowledges the songs she listens to on her Walkman while moving through the actions of the narrative. The sound of her strong voice telling this wild adventure may play through readers' heads long after they have put down this book. Kevin Grandfield --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From Kirkus Reviews
How does a do-it-all party girl become a woman of virtue, the next best thing to the Virgin Mary? The answer, savage yet serene, is this seductive debut from Warner, one of a just-arriving group of new Scottish writers. The shock of waking one morning before Christmas to find her man dead on the floor proves less stressful for Morvern Callar, a produce-stacker who lives only for music and the next rave, than the inconvenience of having to deal with his body. She goes to work in her seaside Scottish town, then goes to a club, then an all- night party. But when she finally comes home a few days later, he's still there. So she hauls him into the attic and opens the windows for the winter, availing herself of his CDs and bank account and sending his unpublished novel around as he requested, but passing it off as her own. When warm weather arrives, Morvern has to deal with him again; this time she chops him up and goes on a camping trip to dispose of the pieces. Then, craving a change, she abandons work for a Mediterranean resort, where she spends everything, even a publisher's advance for ``her'' novel. Broke and jobless, she comes home to find her foster dad making out with her best friend- -who has already confessed to having gone wild with Morvern's boyfriend the night before he cut his throat. But Morvern also finds a letter informing her that the boyfriend's ample inheritance has been left to her, so she immediately heads back to the blue skies, warm beaches, and the resort rave scene--where in her splendid isolation she has an epiphany. On her next return home a few years later, much is changed, but then so is she. Morvern is the raw, resilient voice of a generation, and if this not-quite-ironic tale of redemption and Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting are any indication, the Scottish Beats are already strong contenders for world-class literary status. (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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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.
The book has as much to do with the place as with the people - unless you've lived on the west coast of scotland all your life like I have maybe you don't get the point - Warner is trying to create the image of 'running away' that everyone likes to do up here. The book deals with Morvern's will to escape from her own mixed up, impersonal life there to the spanish costa's and the rave culture , a sterile but individualistic, contrast to the closely knit community she was brought up in. (A lot of the book mirrors warner's life - leaving home, living it up in the spanish raves for a few years and then back to the UK where he worked on the railways for a while)
So when you read it - look for the little things, the town, the people, the battle between the sterility but excitment of the 'outside world' and the friendly but mentally stifling small town.
Because I find it special that way the only score I could ever give it would be a 1
I love the dialect...and Morvern. Many reviewers complain that we aren't privy to what is going on in her head. Truth is, there isn't much going on in there. She is not sophisticated enough to mull over her actions. She isn't educated, isn't well read or travelled. She simply acts accompanied by a soundtrack. She isn't overencumbered with religious guilt. In fact, she doesn't seem to be hampered by guilt of any kind. It is such a wasteful emotion and Morvern has better things to do with the squeezed emotions she does possess.
Morvy's got an eye for detail and an appreciation of nature that, for me, more than makes up for her "raving" behavior. The flatness of the dialogue, her affect, and the repetitive nature of her entire life, right up to the end of the novel when Morvern's life takes a turn, accurately depicts what life is like for anyone living in a small town, or a ghetto, with little hope of having a better life because of the lack of opportunities and the lack of self-preparation for anything better. Him seemed to have possessed abilities, education, financial resources, but he took his life by slitting his own throat and attempting to cut off one of his hands. What did his death tell Morvern about life when one is supposedly ready?
I thought what she did with is body was a tribute to him and her love of nature, but I may change my mind after thinking about this story a while longer. That is one of the great things about this book; it makes you reflect on the mechanical ways we usually respond to life and opens the door to living more innovatively.
I've always wanted to visit Scotland and because of Morvern's description of the countryside, I'll likely go, but I'll stay away from the pubs!
hates, she's skint but her blokes got a bit more dosh and
so when he kills himself having jist completed a novel
Morvern firsts hides his body in the loft and raids his
bank account and then publishes his book under her name
and lives the high life off the proceeds partying on the
Spanish costas. Alan Warner has with this novel produced
an update on Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting; the heroin
culture in Scotland's inner cities is no more the drug
culture has spread to even the most rural towns of Scotland
but it has changed from the destructive heroin to the free
love of ecstacy. We also see the ravages of society
post-thatcherism; where Trainspotting's Rent et al knew
they were a subversive element in society Morvern ill-
educated and with weakened family links seeks only hedonism
and doesn't view herself as the destructive element in
society she is.
Warner has a new novel published soon and I look forward to
more from him and the rest of the rebel inc.crew.