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Morvern Callar

(Morvern Callar Cycle #1)

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  3,719 ratings  ·  248 reviews
Morvern Callar, a low-paid employee in the local supermarket in a desolate and beautiful port town in the west of Scotland, wakes one morning in late December to find her strange boyfriend has committed suicide and is dead on the kitchen floor. Morvern's reaction is both intriguing and immoral. What she does next is even more appalling. Moving across a blurred European lan ...more
Paperback, 242 pages
Published February 17th 1997 by Anchor (first published 1995)
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Average rating 3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,719 ratings  ·  248 reviews

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Jul 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scotland, fiction

A lonely, beautiful novel whose narrative voice will wow you and unsettle you in equal measure. Morvern Callar is a twenty-one-year-old girl who works in a supermarket in a run-down Highlands port town (probably some version of Oban); she wakes one morning before Christmas to find that her boyfriend has killed himself in their apartment. The distant, carefully-described way she reacts to this event is, in a sense, at the heart of the novel's fascination, certainly its initial pull on the reader.
Jul 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who are ready for part 2 of learn yerself scotch possible dance for part 1)
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
You come home one day. You find the mutilated body of your dead boyfriend strewn in a minor gore-fest across the floor of your kitchen. You are calm and you gather together loose change and head out to the local phonebooth to call the police and the ambulance.... and then you stop.

Do you
a) have a mini-break down, collapse on the floor of the phone box convulsed with grief screaming your beloved's name?
b) Realise you have the wrong change and head off to the shops to buy a packet of silk cut in
Last night, I saw the friend who lent me Morvern Callar. "It's a strange sort of a book," she said, guardedly. "What did you think?"

Morvern Callar, a young-ish 21-year-old from an unnamed Scottish seaside town, comes home a week before Christmas to discover that her boyfriend - a weird, troubled man 14 years her senior - has slit his own throat in their flat. What's the first thing she does? Opens her Christmas presents from him. What does she do then? The blurb says he left her his novel to pub
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: uk, experimental
(First of all: I would probably never have came across this one if not for Warwick's review, so thanks!)

On first reading:
I texted a colleague yesterday, some forty pages before the end of the book, saying it is quite different from anything I remember having read before. Morvern's life is banality itself: poverty, being stuck in a dead-end job, in a small town, since the age of thirteen - but the first thing we learn about her is that one day before Christmas she comes back home to a dead body
Mar 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: I'll be your mirror
Recommended to Mariel by: run run run
The film version of Alan Warner's Morvern Callar is one of my most loved favorites (the leading actress, Samantha Morton, is my favorite actress ever). The film is better than the book. The choice of first person narrative in Warner's book does not work as well to convey the connections and disconnections of Morvern. It's not just the constant mentions of nail painting in the book (what was that? an effort to sound feminine?) that didn't work to reveal or conceal anything. Morton is my favorite ...more
MJ Nicholls
Mar 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels, hoots-mon
Morvern is a troubled young woman from a fictitious Highland fishing village who walks into an inheritance after her boyfriend slashes his wrists in her front room.

She goes abroad, goes to the pub, gets a book she didn't write published, works in the supermarket, goes abroad again and goes clubbing very many times both home and abroad. She remains as inscrutable and strange as possible, allowing the reader little window into her semi-psychotic mind, leaving them entertained but bemused. Same thi
Jul 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I love this book. One of my favourites from the 90s.

I had yesterday (10/11/10) off to do some writng, a new story I thought, as I haven't done anything new this year, I must get on. But for some reason both daughters were home. Why aren't you in London I said demonstrating against tuition fees? (One's at Uni, the other's waiting to go.) I should have been there as well, occupying the Tory headquarters. Anyway I couldn't concentrate on anything new (small house), so read through an old notebook f
Ned Rifle
Nov 17, 2012 rated it did not like it
If you look at photographs of Alan Warner's face you can quickly spot the contrition of a man who has written Morvern Callar. It does not suffice. Books seemingly centred on emptiness do not necessarily succeed by being soulless pits of mediocrity. Books centred on soulless pits of mediocrity do not succeed based on emptiness. Furthermore, men writing female characters do not convince by displaying their knowledge that women have to wipe from front to back after going to the toilet etc. In the t ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
It is unfortunate that this came completely soundless to me when its reading is supposed to be accompanied by music. Music playing either in Morvern Callar's ubiquitous Walkman or elsewhere (a radio nearby, or a stereo, etc.). I don't know what effect it would have had on me if I just had any idea what these tracks sounded like, or even just what their lyrics say:

You Got Me Rockin'
Take Cover
Ma Rainey
Crack Butter
Panzer Be Bop
Last Exit: Straw Dog
Miles Davis: Great Expectations
Sonny Sharrock: Dick
Jason Coleman
Feb 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: greatest-hits
Method: A straight-up lyrical novel with a dead body at the center. The vast majority of its pages are direct sensation—minimal exposition, little dramatic engagement—but the corpse hovers over every quiet moment.

Voice: Scots vernacular; first-person but unreflective.

Heroine's motive: Obscure. Simple animal comfort, or an epic exercise in killing the pain—it’s hard to say. In Spain, blowing all of the deceased's money, she’s so happy she stays awake for three days because she doesn’t want to be
Ben Robinson
Jan 11, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Iconic 90s debut that nails the voice of its young, female shopworker narrator with laserlike precision. Morvern's blank-eyed amorality makes her a herione well-suited to that confused yet weirdly gorgeous time. ...more
Sep 11, 2007 rated it liked it
Trainspotting, but for girls.
Mark Cugini
Dec 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
i always ramble about this book, and with good reason: it's, without question, one of the books that made me want to be a writer.

you can put aside the incredibly strong "female empowerment" theme, the unusual but effective stylistic choices, and the incredibly strong voice of Warner and you'll still see a well-crafted, endearing and engaging story. it's meaningful and complicated enough to demand an infinite number of readings. i often find myself returning to it when i wonder whether or not wri
Jun 29, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scottish
After reading the afterward, I really wanted to like this book, but I still very much don't. I hope to reread it someday and perhaps see Morvern as a lonely person rather than a sociopathic robot. This book was about a lot of people living a lifestyle I find claustrophobic and irritating. I never understood Morvern, never agreed with her choices, but I did keep on reading, which is something. One star for now because I didn't get much out of it and it wasn't an enjoyable reading experience. ...more
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, 2013

The story is naturalistic, related in staunch Oban dialect, but studded with moments of a unique kind of magical realism -- explainable human-caused events that lend a fantastical air to the fictional universe. When Morvern was a child she skidded to the floor while crafting Christmas cards, embedding glitter deep in the flesh, leaving her with a translucent "magic" knee that shimmers in the light, an enduring party trick. (view spoiler)
Mar 31, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels, scottish
A great and challenging read, both in subject and style. Morvern is an amazing character, and the way that Warner creates her voice with language is even more amazing. The style is interesting, frequently mixing 2nd person with first person. Commas and words are dropped, as are contextual words. The tone is established in the first paragraph, even the first sentence, so that you know you are entering into a unique voice right off, and that you are going to be disturbed. There are similarities wi ...more
Sarah Mae
May 08, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommended to Sarah Mae by: VJ Hamilton
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Andy Carrington
Sep 28, 2016 rated it really liked it

Nothing wrong with that.
Catherine Fleet
Jan 15, 2021 rated it liked it
Maybe choosing Morvern Callar as my first book to actually write a review for was a mistake. It’s a book like no other, and I’m hugely conflicted in a number of areas.

I found myself having empathy with the protagonist, the desperation of her situation, the banality of her life, and yet I didn’t like her very much and that made it harder to connect. The colloquial style of writing took patience but once I’d acclimatised I felt it added hugely to the message. The key plot seemed annoyingly unlikel
Dec 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Probably more like 3.5 stars, but I did really enjoy this unique, entertaining story following Morvern through the 90s rave scene... and beyond.
Jan 19, 2010 rated it liked it
A young woman, 21, working in a dead end job and living in a small port town on the west coast of Scotland wakes up one morning to find that her 35 year old boyfriend of five years has committed suicide. She ignores the body for a few days and goes about her life as usual which consists of work and partying. She eventually dismembers and buries the body, sells his manuscript as her own, gets an advance and goes off to Spain (I think) to party some more.

If I hadn't seen the film version of this
Mary H.
A compelling story from the first pages, Morvern Callar lives life with her own soundtrack and glaring indifference to just about everything. Dark and morbid at times it is a story of a weird sort of perseverance through a life offering very little chance of change. Is Morvern a likable character? Not really, but it sure is interesting finding out. Pretty amazing that this was a debut novel.
Eilidh Fyfe
May 15, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This novel put my brain in a very strange place.
The dialect, the people and the small village chat lures that familiarity but completely spins it all on the head.
It also absolutely personifies the instances of the rave scene and the physical holiday hedonism which is practically unseen nowadays.
Morvern is so utterly bizarre and I loved her, also very funny that when I typed her name it corrected to Norbert. However, there were so many instances when you could blatantly tell it was a male autho
Michalle Gould
Feb 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nigel Bird
Sep 10, 2015 rated it liked it
‘He’d cut His throat with the knife. He’d nearly chopped off His hand with the meat cleaver. He couldn’t object, so I lit a Silk Cut.’

The opening to Morven Callar (US) is very strong. Every action and thought is noted. Each character has a special name. The buzz and the vividness almost creates the illusion that she’s speaking in a different language, like she’s just read A Clockwork Orange and is taking bites from it. Her boyfriend, He/Him/His, has killed himself in their flat and Callar reacts
Mar 30, 2012 rated it really liked it
This book was recommended to me by a friend back in 2003 or 2004, a guy I'm no longer even in touch with. I remember always thinking it was something entirely different - more of a period piece, for some reason. So I was pleasantly surprised when I finally pulled this off my shelf to read it. It was pretty nostalgic, which was nice! I enjoyed the mid-90s feel of it. I was rather put off by the last paragraph of the book, but aside from the wording of it, I think it closed up the story quite well ...more
The lights are on, blinking rapidly, but who is home?

Morvern Callar is a postmodern girl, works at the supermarket, been living with her boyfriend for 4 years now.She knows her way around her bit of the Highland Coast,she's taking driving lessons to be even more independent.Rather innocently,she likes to mess around,but she's fairly fastidious about getting clean. A dedicated raver tuned in to the latest trends,she notices details, especially the play of light and shadow on the surfaces of her s
Jan 08, 2010 rated it it was ok
Someone recommended this book to me many years ago and I have forgotten who. The reason this becomes important is that I can't imagine what image I portrayed to provoke such a recommendation. The main character in this story is a very young Scottish girl who wakes up on Christmas Eve to discover that her live-in boyfriend has killed himself in their apartment. She steps around the body and opens all the presents under the tree and goes to work at her job as a clerk in a supermarket.

And the sto
Apr 08, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who like dark, morbid, slightly sexual stories about Scottish chicks.
Recommended to Colleen by: Nick
This book was a little difficult to get into, style wise, because it takes place in a working-class port town in Scotland and all of the slang is in place in the dialog. The author also chose not to use quotation marks. But once I got into it I really liked it. It was very dark and hard to relate to the main character during some parts, but I was intrigued and scandalized enough to always want to find out what happens next. I wasn't crazy about the end, but I liked the first 2/3 of the book enou ...more
Oct 07, 2010 rated it it was ok
I really enjoyed this book at first and was intrigued by the narrator but as it went on, I rapidly lost interest. She was not a very sympathetic character to my mind, although that is not a pre-requisite for me to enjoy a book. She just did not keep my attention and perhaps from the blurb, my expectations were for a lot more to happen than actually did. I like the basic idea of the plot but ultimately it didn't grip me. ...more
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Note: There is more than one Alan Warner, this is the page for the award-winning Scottish novelist. For books by other people bearing the same name see Alan Warner

Alan Warner (born 1964) is the author of six novels: the acclaimed Morvern Callar (1995), winner of a Somerset Maugham Award; These Demented Lands (1997), winner of the Encore Award; The Sopranos (1998), winner of the Saltire Society Sco

Other books in the series

Morvern Callar Cycle (2 books)
  • These Demented Lands

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