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Stoner: A Novel by John Edward Williams

Updated on August 6, 2019
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Sharon has a passion for reading non-fiction books and writing about what she learns from her research and her experiences.

Stoner, by John Williams, is a New York book review classic novel. I came across a recommendation to read Stoner on the internet. I don't remember on which site I read about the book but the title stuck in my head and I am sure glad that it did.


Stoner: The Story of a Man

I have been reading non-fiction for quite some time now and lost the habit of reading fiction. Sometimes reading too much non-fiction can be draining. It's like you are at school and you must remember and apply what you have learned. It's nice to just lose yourself in a novel. I have picked up some fiction books here and there and tried to read them but I find it hard to come across a book of fiction that keeps my attention right to the very last word.

Stoner is a novel that I found captivating; it keeps you wanting to read on. John Willams writes a great story (although not the happiest one) that brings his characters to life. After finishing this book I now present to you my first fiction novel review.

Have you read Stoner?

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The Story of Stoner by John Williams, Author

Farmland of Stoner's youth
Farmland of Stoner's youth | Source

Introducing John Stoner

The title "Stoner" is the surname of the main character of the novel. Who is Stoner? He is a quiet farm boy who rises out of a farming community at the end of the nineteenth century to reach some success in the academic world as a university professor.

A Quiet and Tragic Life

Stoners' life is tragic in the sense that he never reaches a state of consistent satisfaction or happiness although he marries a woman who he believes is the love of his life and has a beautiful daughter whom he adores. You would think that this would be enough for a man but the relationship with his wife is tumultuous and she has cruel traits. You begin to feel for his predicament and wish that he would fight back but he does not; at least not overtly.

A Man With Hidden Passion

Stoner appears too passive and perhaps deserves his lot in life but then you see his passionate defense of an issue in the university where he believes very strongly that a graduate student should not be allowed to progress. This side of the character is admirable and you start to view Stoner in a different light.

He also takes on a lover and although this is morally wrong you feel it is okay for him; that it is something that he deserves because his personal life is so unhappy. Then even this is taken away from him, cruelly, by a vindictive superior.

Contains Vivid Characters that Draw You Into the Story

The characters are so vividly painted; this is what grabs your interest. You want to see what becomes of these people, you become emotionally involved in their lives. I found myself cheering and booing for your hero and/or the villians. Karma needs to take over and make things right! The ending is tragic but a relief as well. Peace is finally achieved and the heartache is over.

Highly Recommended Fiction

I highly recommend this novel. I took it with me on a trip to Europe just for reading on the plane but found I could not put it down. I finished it on the trip by enjoying it before bed and on the beach. I was sorry when it was finished and immediately searched for more John Williams' novels to enjoy.

Currently I am reading his western novel "Butcher's Crossing" and again it has pulled me in with rich characters and a captivating story line.

Will you read Stoner if you haven't already?

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John Edward Williams

About the Author

John Edward Williams was born in 1922 and lived until 1994. He was a native of northeast Texas and failed out of a local college there. He always had a talent for writing and acting and was a creative type. Discouraged by his failure at college he enlisted in the Army and was in the air corps. He became involved in the war and actually wrote a draft of his first novel while deployed!

When John returned home he managed to get his draft published by a small publishing house. He gave education another try at the University of Denver where he successfully achieved both a B.A.and a M.A. In 1954, John Williams became employed by the university in the creative writing department and he remained there until he retired in 1985.

John wrote what he knew and the Stoner novel is mainly based at a University and all the politics and nuances of academic life are revealed in the story of this professor.

Stoner: A Novel

Stoner (New York Review Books Classics)
Stoner (New York Review Books Classics)
I found the book in the library but I had to go to another city to find it. I live in a large urban centre so this did not present much of a problem. If your local library doesn't carry Stoner it is available on Amazon for a reasonable price. You won't be disappointed it's a great read and I believe it to be an unsung classic novel. In recent days the book has enjoyed somewhat of a come back into the spotlight. Even after the author's death the writing continues to live on and attract new fame with a new audience of readers. It's a shame that John Williams did not live to see his novel have this second time around fame.

More Novels by John Williams

I have started to read Butcher's Crossing and I am not disappointed. Although it is a completely different setting and far from university life; it contains the same believable characters that you begin to feel for and cheer for. I found the writing in Butcher's Crossing more compelling there is an more suspenseful aura in the story. This keeps this reading engaged right to the last word.

There will be more on this novel when I finish it and then I will be reading Augustus which is reportedly John Williams' best novel.

Butcher's Crossing

Butcher's Crossing (New York Review Books Classics)
Butcher's Crossing (New York Review Books Classics)
I enjoyed reading Stoner so much I immediately when on to read another of John Willam's novels. The story of Butcher's Crossing is intriguing and is also about the life of a man. Although this man does not suffer in silence but takes a trip of self discovery. The trip ends up being much more that he anticipated and changes his life forever. I could not put this book down!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Sharon Bellissimo


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