Book Review: Stoner by John Williams

6.5.14

Discovering a book that truly provokes your thoughts, creates feelings and is ultimately enjoyable are some of my most favourite qualities in a novel. With the Sunday Times claiming it is 'The greatest novel you've never read', it does make you wonder what it is about and why it is considered a perfect novel.


Stoner written by John Williams follows the life of William Stoner, starting from his birth in 1891. The life of William Stoner is relatively unextraordinary, he grew up in a poor farming family then leaves to study at university and finds his first love English Literature. A world different from the one he has known so far and as the years pass he leads a scholar life and experiences disappointment in both his personal life and in his career. In this journey he falls deeper within himself with the realisation of marrying the wrong woman, he fills the lost passion with books and spending more time at the university he teaches at where he finds solace. Although not always a haven as his disinterest in office politics causes difficulties. He later becomes a person he always wanted to be but suffers when he understands that it will not last as he falls in an inevitable trap. Further on he continues to be the honourable professor for as long as he is allowed to be and learns acceptance. 

A simple yet powerful novel that has a far deeper meaning than what is seen on the surface. I think that by exploring one man's life through the significant moments to the more mundane is what makes it effective. As a reader you follow through their first days, discover what they learn, feel the love, sadness, anger and pain they are going through. At one point or another there is the chance of being able to relate to Stoner but most importantly John Williams writes the story of Stoner in a way that anyone can begin to understand. I found it heartbreaking for the majority of my time reading the novel however it highlights a possible reality that we might not get what we hope for and we should try our hardest not to let that ruin the good that does enter our life. It is honest in that sense, I have reflected and deeply thought about everything. With every break in between reading I was able to dive back into the elegantly written life of William Stoner.

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