Stoner by John Edward Williams

Decided to read this as a result of all the recent hype…….according to Ian McEwan, one of my favourite writers, it is ‘the best book you have never read’.

A campus novel set in the first part of the twentieth century, Stoner begins and ends with the death of the eponymous hero William Stoner. At first an undistinguished student of Agriculture he soon becomes diverted by literature and Letters and ends by becoming a Professor of Literature at the same university.

Stoner is the tale of the ‘little guy’….his heroic struggles are largely with himself. An inability to reach out emotionally to others : his parents, who he loves but largely abandons, his wife with whom he remains locked in a loveless marriage and his colleagues who fail to understand him. His inability to hold on to the opportunity for love that life offers him…his daughter who, like his parents he leaves to her fate or to maintain his relationship with Katherine in the face of society and faculty disapproval.

Written with great delicacy and empathy this truly is a forgotten gem. The influence on McEwan’s On Chesil Beach is clear to see. Stoner is not a naturally appealing character but Williams gives us a window into his soul. We understand him and suffer with him. Williams was clear the Stoner WAS a hero despite his mundane and unfulfilled life.

A joy to read….A classic of American Literature.

7 thoughts on “Stoner by John Edward Williams

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