An old friend recommended Stoner by John Williams to me and I’m glad of it. I really liked it.
It is a beautifully observed, straightforward story. I would say that it is the ordinary tragedy of an ordinary man.
I think that is what is so heart-breaking — the scale. If it had been about a remarkable man unrecognised and trapped in a life of mediocrity, I don’t think it would have such poignancy.
Stoner’s ambitions are humble; a happy home life and a level of success and professional fulfillment in his recondite academic field. He is not really a complex or even brilliant character, he is naive and awkward but stumblingly good hearted. All the simple happinesses he hopes for are thwarted, mainly by the petty selfishness of those around him. It is disturbing in an entirely unassuming way and all the more disturbing for that.
Disturbing and lovely though — because the novel is the true account of the man, an act of redemption and understanding. Sweet and sorrowful. Ooh I liked it, that writer Williams — he did a good job.