Stoner by John Williams
Sometimes when you’re reading a book you have the experience of identifying very strongly with the characters.
I so enjoyed reading Stoner by John Williams. It reminded me very much of my own father brought up on a Scottish farm. There were lots of similarities. My father also had jobs to do on the farm when he was a young boy. I also recognised the coldness, the lack of warmth between the family members. My Scottish family did not hug or kiss each other on greeting. My father, like Stoner, escaped the family farm to go to university to do an agricultural degree.
John Williams describes, with a very plain way of writing, the relationship William Stoner has with his wife. It is a cold, unfulfilled relationship, his wife is unkind to him and they agree to live side by side but not with any friendliness. Their daughter suffers for living in this atmosphere. In contrast to his relationship with his wife is the affair he has with a student. This feels very real, genuine and full of love.
I was reading this book as an iBook on either my iPad on my iPhone which meant that at times in the middle of the night I would read for a couple of hours on my phone. I want to know what happened next and I like the character of Stoner very much.
When I had finished I read a review of the book and I was very glad to read it because it confirmed what I thought myself. ‘…the prose was clean and quiet; and the tone a little wry’. (Guardian Review, see link) Julian Barnes, describes it as ‘a true “reader’s novel”, in the sense that its narrative reinforces the very value of reading and study’. There is a moment many of us would recognise where Stoner suddenly realises the value of literature. He then makes a life changing decision to study literature instead of agriculture.
We see Stoner’s life from childhood to death, laid out before us to measure and assess and treasure. A great achievement John Williams.