16.01. Another rather good read: John Williams’ Stoner

My book club is fabulous.  I meet once a month with 11 fabulous women.  Each of us choose one book per year.  We read the same book each month and then meet over a wine or two to discuss.

Book club often forces me out of my comfort zone, to books I would not normally read.  And Stoner is one of those books.

Chosen by the lovely Angela, this book was published in 1965 and I had never even heard of it.  But ended up enjoying it thoroughly.  Here are my thoughts.

Stoner by John Williams

Stoner is the story of an inconsequential man, the author tells us so right at the start, then proceeds to prove himself wrong.  Even the “smallest” existence can be so full of life, so full of meaning, Williams seems to be saying.

John Stoner grows up dirt poor but discovers a passion for literature and becomes a teacher at Columbia University.  The book chronicles university life and politics, love, marriage and parenthood and finally, the thoughts a man has as he prepares himself for departure from this world.

The book is very quiet and elegantly written.  It is also profoundly sad.  At every turn, Stoner is denied happiness, and yet he faces every situation with integrity and stoicism, like his farmer parents.  Life is endured, not enjoyed.

”…within a month he knew that his marriage was a failure; within a year he stopped hoping that it would improve. He learned silence and did not insist upon his love.”

For all it’s sadness, the book is strangely compelling.  Williams’ insights into the working of human relationships are timeless.  And his eloquent prose is an absolute pleasure to read and has a poignancy that I found deeply moving.

Rating: thoroughly readable