Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Stoner by John Williams

John Stoner is born into a poor farming family in Missouri at the end of the 19th century. John’s father recognises that farming changes with time and he sends his son to university to study agriculture before coming home to work on the family farm.

However, at university John falls in love with English Literature and his life changes course completely as a result. He begins a lifelong career as a scholar and academic and marries into a ‘proper’ family, far removed from the world he left behind in Missouri.

For John, life never really lives up to his expectations and he finds his life full of disappointments. Circumstances drive him deeper into himself where he hopes to find some peace; but can solitude really bring John the serenity he desires for himself?

This is one of the best books I have read in a long time and I think that is because it is one of the most skilfully written books I have ever encountered.

The character of John Stoner is one of the most ordinary characters I have encountered in my reading. There is nothing exciting that happens to him and he certainly does not live up to his early promise. However, it is this sense of the ordinary that catapults this book into the extraordinary.

Other than his early love for literature nothing terribly interesting or eventful happens to John throughout the entire novel. As a reader, I like my reading material to move along at an appropriate pace and to contain enough events to keep me engaged. So, in theory, I should not have liked this book.

However, I was completely hooked from the first page right through to the last because the skilful execution of the writing held me completely captivated. For an author to be able to take such an ordinary character surrounded by the mundane and elevate him to being a character that I not only wanted to read about but who I genuinely cared about and who has remained with me after the conclusion of the book takes an intelligence and skill not often seen in an author.

This book has had a lot of hype recently and I am always wary of books that have as I am so often disappointed. However, this book is an exception and I have no criticism to make of it. It was top rate writing and I would recommend it to everyone.

I borrowed this book from the library and it has reminded me of what a valuable resource our libraries are. To be able to read a gem like this at no cost to the reader is something that deserves celebrating. My local library in Uckfield is not massive but it is jammed packed full of carefully chosen books that will appeal to everyone. The staff are both cheerful and helpful and a visit there always reminds me how fortunate we are to have such a good resource in our town.

ISBN:  9780099561545

Publisher:  Vintage Classics

Price (based on today‘s price on Amazon.co.uk):  £6.29

Total saving so far:  £322.27

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