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Morvern Callar
Alan Warner
Vintage Classics

He’d cut His throat with the knife. He’d near chopped off His hand with the meat cleaver. He couldnt object so I lit a Silk Cut. A sort of wave of something was going across me. There was fright but I’d daydreamed how I’d be.

Morvern Callar’s voice is unique and one you will either love or loathe.  For my part, I adored her, but then, she did remind me of a more gregarious version of myself.  This is emotionally detached first person narrative par excellence.  It has been compared to Camus’ L’Étranger and I can see why, as both novels feature characters who seem to be amoral and lack the usual feelings expected in the face of death.

I saw the film Morvern Callar when it was released, but I hardly remember it and it had no bearing on my selection of this book to read.  The 90s rave ambience appeals to some, those who may have heard of the songs that make up Morvern’s personal soundtrack, but I was completely removed from the club scene and so its ‘historical’ setting was only of passing interest to me.  I say ‘historical’ tongue in cheek, but this, Warner’s debut novel, was published twenty years ago and so many of the props from Morvern’s life, such as Walkmans, videos and floppy discs, now seem extremely retro.

The thrill of Morvern’s voice, reminded me of the experience of reading A Clockwork Orange, in that the language used by Warner seems to be a blend of dialects, mixed to create something new and interesting.  However, it also highlights for me one of the main problems with the first person narrative; that a writer tends to have a better vocabulary and superior descriptive powers than the character telling the story.  Morvern has clearly never read a book and yet her tale is expressed in a very beautiful and poetic style.  This didn’t jar with me, but it reminded me of my own struggle to write a story from a child’s point of view.  Morvern is very childlike in her expression, but her description of a Spanish pomegranate tree with bursting fruit is stunning.  As readers, we then have to decide whether to let this go or dismiss the character as unrealistic.

Realism wasn’t important to me, and so I simply allowed myself to be absorbed into Morvern Callar’s life and taken along for the journey.

Sorry, I haven’t discussed the plot or anything.  Too tired!  More information here.

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