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Morvern Callar Paperback – February 17, 1997

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; 1st Anchor Books ed edition (February 17, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038548741X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385487412
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #245,196 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Alan Warner's Morvern Callar may be the first novel that deserves its own soundtrack. The music Warner's title character listens to as she drifts aimlessly through her sterile life may be the most worthwhile part of this depressing novel. Following in the footsteps of Trainspotting, another Scottish tale of anomie in the Highlands, Morvern Callar chronicles Morvern's dead-end existence--a joyless round of sex and raves punctuated by the music playing through her portable stereo.

Warner tells this dreary story from Morvern's point of view in a voice that is flat and affectless, as if the girl's soul had died years before though her body continues to function. Morvern Callar is a strange mix of shocking and banal, a mélange with appeal for a very specialized audience.

From Booklist

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

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 21, 2000
Format: Paperback
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.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 18, 1997
Format: Paperback
Everyone sees Morvern Callar as a singular tale of hedonism and the drug culture, but that's not quite it. I may be predjudiced by living in the town that the book is supposed to be set in but I see it being so much more.

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
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lady VJ on April 19, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Late one night I came upon the movie _Morvern Callar_ and wondered why it might be called Morvern the Silent. I watched the movie, stunned, but unable and unwilling to change the station even when I could barely understand the dialogue. The characters, aside from Morvern, were so like the ghetto people I've lived with much of my life. At the end of the film, I learned the movie was based on a book, and hurriedly ordered it thinking I would be able to understand the language better if I could read it.

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?
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 1, 1998
Format: Paperback
It seems that readers (see above reviews) saw the depressing table setting here and looked no further. Actually, the book is exhilarating. Morvern's tongue is a potent cocktail of Scots, slang, and autodidactic poetry, and it's more erotic in and of itself than anything since the motels sequence of Lolita. Her character, far from blank or emotionless, is wanton, savage, but with great depths of wisdom--she's a changeling, and her story is almost mythic, beginning with its premise. This book has a pulse you can nearly dance to, but, like some great undiscovered piece of trance dub, it has symphonic undercurrents, with a strange and terrible beauty.
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