Sunday, February 9, 2014

Stoner: A Novel

William Stoner, from an outsider’s perspective, has lived a dull and unfulfilled life.  Growing up on a farm in Missouri hard work was engrained on every line on his parent’s face; despite only being in their early twenties when they had their son farm-life soon meant that their faces were hollow and their hair prematurely grey.   He enrolled at the University of Missouri in the new agricultural course; at first he was fascinated by the magical properties of soil to which he was oblivious, but it was the compulsory course in English Literature which changed his life forever.  As the tutor asks questions about Shakespearean sonnets he unwittingly awakens a lifelong love of literature in Stoner.  Soon Stoner’s agricultural degree is an English one and memories of his farm-life are forgotten.

There is a subtle sense of sadness pervading the life of Stoner as he tries, with little success, to form relationships with those around him.  From marrying the wrong woman to the stoical silence of his hardworking farmer parents Stoner has never really known love; instead he finds his first love in books: grammar, syntax, and semantics.  Spending all of his time reading he finds his escape from his loveless marriage in his career; gradually he blossoms as a tutor, becoming more comfortable conveying his passion for literature to his students.  Which is when, aged forty-two, that he stumbles upon his soul-awakening love with a female student.

Essentially Stoner is the story of a man who goes to college a farmer and accidentally falls in love with Literature. It may not sound like much, the author tells you so from the start, but it is so rich with character, as this life unfolds from a farmer’s son to a University professor in English - it is a classic underdog story.  And despite lots of critics saying its essential reading for those with a love of definitely don't need an in-depth knowledge of Chaucer (and friends) to appreciate the story of this man.

Originally published in 1963 it has recently been re-issued and heralded as the must-read book of 2013; the ‘best novel you’ve never read’; and several other grandiose titles.  It may not sound like a rollercoaster plot; but it has a soft prose, drawing you in and making you really feel for this poor man.  It is an offering to those among us who live in a stoic silence endlessly enduring hardship after hardship.  I don’t often agree with these hyperbolic statements they stick on the covers of books…but on this occasion, I think they may just be right.
Stoner is available for £4.99 in eBook format HERE.  
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Alice @ said...

I bought The Stoner a few days ago, and I've been wondering since if I would like it - the need to an in-depth knowledge of Chaucer may throw me.

Louise from: //This Book Is Reserved// said...

Sorry I may have added to some confusion...I meant you definitely DIDN'T need an indepth knowledge of Chaucer to enjoy it - so you needn't worry! :)

Do let me know how you get on if you decide to take the plunge! xo

Tasha said...

This is my next book to read after 12 Years a Slave. I've heard great things about it - can't wait!

Mel Wills said...

Well I am certainly intrigued! I don't know if this would be something I will be able to pick up and read this year with so many in my pile already but it certainly seemed like a story I would be interested in.


Anonymous said...

I loved the writing, the pace, the times it evoked but seem from reading reviews to be the only one frustrated with Stoner - he had a choice! He made 2 brave decisions at the start - career and marriage - but then just stopped and meekly allowed life to happen to him, which made me very cross with him.

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