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John Williams's luminous and deeply moving novel is a work of quiet perfection. William Stoner emerges from it not only as an archetypal American, but as an unlikely existential hero, standing, like a figure in a painting by Edward Hopper, in stark relief against an unforgiving world.
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By Mark J. Lura on 07-12-11
A fascinating book
A book which is very fascinating because of its plainness. The story is of an interesting character who lives an ordinary life. Doesn't excel. Doesn't achieve greatness. Isn't a hero. Isn't a villain. Just a normal guy who stoically faces a failed marriage, who loses relationship with his family, who fights for right on the job and is tormented because of his choice. Yet told in a fashion which makes the book more like a verbal Grant Wood's American Gothic tale. Hopeful and sad at the same time. It will live with me for some time. Also, well interpreted by reader Robin Field.
37 of 37 people found this review helpful
By Anton on 10-13-12
A story of sadness and serenity
If ever I have read a book that moved me gently but to tears, that would be 'Stoner'. Akin to Stoner's happy days, I regretted the book ending so soon, but it could not come to a close at a better moment and the sadness that you will feel is going to be an acute one, which I surmised coming in waves and not continuously humming at the same pitch in 'Stoner'; the sadness will lap gently against you, you will be carried away. While pleasant dryness permeates Williams's writing, with the narrator's voice being attuned to it, there is little chance anyone could ever call it bland. If anything, this dryness intensifies complex emotions that the story evokes by acting as a counterweght, by keeping things mild, not overpronouncing them.
I hope you appreciate this book and if you do, you can try "The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter" by Carson McCullers that is of a similar sentiment.
72 of 74 people found this review helpful
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Crocker on 07-30-13
A life so ordinary so well told .
There is a slow and painful inevitability about this quiet masterpiece .
The combination of narrator and content has resulted in a modern classic which has a most profound effect, how this book remained under the literary radar for so long is a mystery, no more need be said, just listen quietly and reflect .
9 of 9 people found this review helpful
By steven on 01-04-14
Slow and frugal writing
Finally a book that deserves each of its five stars. Written in 1965 and forgotten for 40 years this book was recently voted Book of the Year, and it is easy to see why. It is a very simple tale of a simple man – an academic who comes from a very modest background and achieves virtually nothing in his lifetime. He watches as his life happens to him and watches as it slips past. He is mild mannered and polite but fails to take a stand on any issue or on any relationship in his life. He has the opportunity on several occasions: an ethical choice which he gets right but executes badly; and a love choice which he lets slip.
The world happens to him, his life is thrust upon him and with a barely detectable shrug he accepts it and moves on.
The sum of the plot is revealed on the first page of the first chapter. It is not for intrigue that one should read the book but for the writing. In style this is somewhere between John Steinbeck and William Faulkner and Franz Kafka. It is slow, measured and carefully descriptive – perfectly in keeping with each tentative thought of William Stoner. Some of JM Coetzee’s early work is similar.
Reading the biography of the author one wonders how autobiographical the story is – two novels published in a lifetime, one receives some acclaim and then evaporates from view for 40 years.
I strongly recommend it, not for reading while lying on the beach – stick to a thriller. But when you are in a contemplative mood and thinking about what to make of 2014 and beyond this would be perfect material.
The narrator's reedy monotone is absolutely perfect for the story - his characterisation is spot on.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful