Stoner is a novel by John Williams, originally published in 1965. However, it went out of print due to being largely unacknowledged in the time of its release. It was reissued in 1972, 2003, and in 2006, with an introduction from John McGahern. And thank god it was! Stoner is subdued yet intensely moving, and stands to be one of the most perfect novels I have ever encountered.

It follows William Stoner, whose life story we seem to know in the first paragraph: he entered the University of Missouri in 1910, where he taught until his death in 1956. He never rose above his position of assistant professor, and was remembered by few of his colleagues or students. Even the manuscript his colleagues placed in the library after his death in which his name is inscribed is barely noticed.

Sure, the synopsis of his life is unassuming, and it’s a strange sensation to read a whole novel after knowing that there is the possibility nothing will happen in it. However, the quiet straightforwardness of Williams writing is so delightfully readable, and the pretext so humble that you carry on… and the next moment you’ve reached the end.

Oh, I have no illusions that it will be a ‘bestseller’ or anything like that… The only thing I’m sure of is that it’s a good novel; in time it may even be thought of as a substantially good one

John Williams on Stoner

The novel was originally dubbed as an educational one; about University and teaching. Although William Stoner had a deep love for literature, it would be a injustice to claim it was the central motivation. Instead, it considers the complexities of relationships with perfect clarity: unconditional love, unnatural love, lost love.

Stoner’s passivity allows the novel to be objective in its pain, and it accommodates points of deep sadness. That being said, the novel is not sad, it is similar to real life: Stoner feels highs and lows yet they are accompanied by a numbness which mutes some of the especially joyous, or devastating parts of his life. He loves his work, and his daughter, and Katherine, and it is the high points of his happiness which makes their loss so poignant. This lifelike essence of the book is what makes it so loveable.

I would highly recommend this novel to anyone, regardless of their personal style. Its very narrative increases its worth as it reignites a passion for literature in the reader. It is so enjoyable.


5 / 5 stars !

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