This is yet another very moving book told from a man’s perspective as he looks back on his life.
The author, John Williams, tells us at the beginning of the story that Stoner’s life was very ordinary and few who knew him would remember him for long after his death. Stoner begins as a very poor student in an American university in 1910 and, during an English class, his sense of wonder in literature is awakened. This transforms his life and as a teacher he tries to pass on this epiphany to others till his death in 1956.
He has many personal trials and tribulations as a husband and as a father. But the reader learns to respect him for his stoicism, his integrity, his modesty, his unworldliness and the driving force of his love of literature which illuminates his life.
The sadness lurking at the edges of his life is profoundly moving, as is his endurance of this sadness and his refusal to ever actually despair. This seemingly simple story seems like the story of everyman and the author’s objective style helps give it universality. It is certainly beautifully written and there are profound passages of extreme simplicity of language which are yet deeply moving. ‘No word was wasted’. The description of his death is outstandingly difficult to read through the tears.
There is such an elusive quality about this book that is very difficult to identify precisely why it is so moving, but it just is.
The only mystery is why it has only just been re-discovered, over fifty years since it was written.