Stoner by John Williams

Stoner is a novel of a life, a supposedly unremarkable life whose telling shows the beauty of a quiet every day lived in love. The protagonist, William Stoner, is the son of a farmer who is the first in his family to go up to university to study agriculture and make more of their arid patch of land. Whilst there, Stoner discovers literature and never turns back. He becomes a literature professor, turning away from worldly pursuits in favour of the academic. The careful turn of words earns his love and passion in a way that occasionally lives in his personal life. He never amounts to anything but a teacher academically and his marriage is a difficult one, but there is such beauty in this life of principle that none of these things matter. To live, to love to live, even for a little, is enough.

Stoner is a beautiful novel that stands in the face of the Great American Novel and calmly, gently, with delicate precision, sticks its fingers up and asks what really matters. Brilliant. I don’t want to say more than that because I urge you to read it for yourself.

Next week I’m reading The Lost Horizon by James Hilton, followed by The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing and The Restraint of Beasts by Magnus Mills. Do keep your comments and suggestions coming.

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