Review: Stoner – by John Williams

stonerSynopsis: William Stoner enters the University of Missouri at nineteen to study agriculture. A seminar on English literature changes his life, and he never returns to work on his father’s farm. Stoner becomes a teacher. He marries the wrong woman. His life is quiet, and after his death his colleagues remember him rarely.

Title: Stoner
Author: John Williams
Publisher: Vintage Classics
Pub Date: 5th July 2012
Pages: 320
ISBN: 9780099561545

Rating: 5stars

I’m not good with words. I babble a lot and forget crucial terms when nervous, upset, angry, excited, sleepy – generally when I’m experiencing any kind of emotion. I’m adjective-happy and my use of apostrophes would (and do) drive my peers crazy.

After reading this book I can’t say it’s good, I can’t even say it’s brilliant because, for me, Stoner was astounding. The depiction of human emotion and turmoil in such an ordinary existence is, simply put, so beyond my creative abilities that I’m left a little speechless.

“The love of literature, of language, of the mystery of the mind and heart showing themselves in the minute, strange, and unexpected combinations of letters and words, in the blackest and coldest print – the love which he had hidden as if it were illicit and dangerous, he began to display, tentatively at first, and then boldly, and then proudly.”

I disagree with the many reviews I’ve seen that discuss how Stoner was a man of endurance and how hard done by he had been throughout his life – I felt no pity for the character. Every downfall had been the result of his actions or, more accurately, his failure to act. It’s not the big decisions that affect our lives the most; it is the small choices, made a dozen times a day that have the biggest effect.

“You must remember what you are and what you have chosen to become, and the significance of what you are doing. There are wars and defeats and victories of the human race that are not military and that are not recorded in the annals of history. Remember that while you’re trying to decide what to do.”

What I loved the most is the quietness of it all. The prose is simple but brilliant, the plot about a conventional life. There are no disasters or terrible events – Stoner is about the quiet tragedies of the everyday.

Overall, I can’t help but quote the synopsis on the book’s back: Luminous and deeply moving, Stoner is a work of quiet perfection. A brilliant novel, and one I would happily read again.

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