Morvern Callar

Alan Warner ( and gives us this peculiarly Scottish tale of purposelessness and amorality set in the 1980s. For it he won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1996 (

Morvern Callar, a low-paid young woman in the local supermarket of a desolate and beautiful port town (Oban??) in the west of Scotland, wakes one morning in late December to find her strange boyfriend has committed suicide. He lies dead on the kitchen floor. Morvern’s reaction is both intriguing and immoral. What she does next is even more appalling. She does not seem to possess what Gordon Brown recommended as having – a moral compass! Moving across a blurred European landscape – from rural poverty and the drunken mayhem of the port to the Mediterranean rave scene – we experience everything through Morvern’s stark, unflinching eyes. She rarely goes anywhere without the Walkman left behind as a Christmas present by her dead boyfriend, and as she narrates her strange story, she takes care to tell the reader exactly what music she is listening to, giving the effect of a sound track running behind her voice.

In much the same way that Patrick McCabe managed to tell an incredibly rich and haunting story through the eyes of an emotionally disturbed boy in The Butcher Boy, Alan Warner probes the vast internal emptiness of a generation by using the cool, haunting voice of a female narrator lost in the profound anomie of the ecstasy generation.  Morvern is a character who remains with you long after finishing this book.

Made into a film ( in 2002, directed by Lynne Ramsay and starring Samantha Morton in the title role.

Available on DVD at

Originally published 1995.

240 pages in Vintage paperback edition

ISBN 978-0099586111

Alan Warner

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