Stoner was first published in 1965 but has only recently found success, 19 years after the death of John Williams. I finished it a few days ago but have been struggling to know how to write this review. It's not that I didn't enjoy it, quite the opposite actually, I'm just not sure if I can do it justice. The Stoner of the title refers to William Stoner, son of a farmer who originally goes to the University of Missouri to study agriculture but falls in love with literature and eventually drops his science courses in favour of philosophy, ancient history and English literature and ends up teaching at the university for almost forty years. And that in an essence is it, there are no great dramas and no shocking plot twists. It's a quiet character study of a quiet man who goes to college, finds work, marries (the wrong woman), has a child and eventually dies. He does nothing extraordinary and yet this is a book that moved me to tears and will stay with me for a long time. Stoner himself is unremarkable and we are told remembered rarely after his death but this gentle man who lives for much of his life unloved is still able to feel deep love for others and for literature and is a character who reminds us that we all have our stories, our successes and failures even if we will be forgotten by history. Achingly sad at times but wise and truthful, it was chosen as Waterstones Book of the Year for 2013. It took me a while to read because I wanted to savour this deceptively simple novel that covers a man's entire adult life in under three hundred pages but never feels rushed. If you love literature and the power of a perfectly structured narrative then I highly recommend you read this deservedly lauded book.
Stoner is published by Vintage Classics.