I cannot remember now why I originally downloaded the book Stoner by John Williams on to my Kindle. It must have been a recommendation from somewhere because the story of a man working as a teacher in an American University in the twentieth century doesn’t immediately seem like something that would attract me. In the spirit of my 12 in 12 Challenge though I chose this as one of my stand-alone novels for September as it has been on my virtual to-be-read pile for a long time and I am very glad that I did.
The author tells us from the beginning of this book that when William Stoner dies he is not remembered for long by those who knew him. His life had no long-term significance and the one book he left was soon forgotten. He was a dedicated but not always a great teacher. He had a failed marriage and was not always happy. What the book then does is to take us through Stoner’s life and show us that these things are not always the things that matter. William Stoner did affect people, he did make a difference and his life was filled with small moments of joy and sorrow, all of which were important to him.
Stoner starts his career by being sent to college by his parents who want him to learn things that will make their farm more profitable. He becomes engaged with the study of literature, changes his course and starts a career as a teacher in the place where he studied. He finds great satisfaction in teaching and learning and he continues this for the whole of his life. His marriage is made from passion which soon fades and he is left in a relationship which is toxic and destructive. He loves his daughter above all things but events cause her life to be happy but unfulfilled and very sad. He has a great love affair which is truncated by the ill will of others. Through his whole life he believes that there is merit in the study of literature for its own sake and that it is important that those who teach have the knowledge and passion that he does.
I found this slow to start with but the author eventually dragged me in until I was in tears for most of the last chapter because I had engaged so much with Stoner. This is a brilliant character study of someone who has great passion but who is socially inept; who has great integrity but is also very stubborn. This is not a particularly long book but it is an excellent read – I highly recommend it.