Stoner by John Williams
Shelf Worth: 4/5
I don't often succumb to hype. If anything, I'm likely to ignore something popular for years (my Take That crush and West Wing obsessions take up a lot of of my time these days). First published in 1965, Stoner has been impressing some very tough critics, from The Bookseller Crow to er... Tom Hanks. Facing an endless Eurostar journey at the start of this month, I finally picked it up.
William Stoner's life as a lecturer is quiet. He simply goes about his business and would quite like his life to have as little drama as possible. He's not an ambitious chap. Stoner isn't a story of the great American Dream. The people around him, in his rather small world of work and home, desperately want him to fight, but he rarely does. John Williams has written a remarkable book about an unremarkable individual.
Nothing really happens, but I like that. You're plonked straight into Stoner's world and it feels a bit like you're snooping around, just getting to know his life. If you need a fast pace to your books, you'll absolutely hate it - hype or not. But I really enjoyed the slow escapism. I liked that, for my four hour train journey, I was in a totally different place and caught up in Stoner's academic world (goodness, his wife is absolutely awful). I loved reading about the heartbreaking relationship that he has with his daughter. I simply enjoyed reading about William Stoner.
I don't know if I've succumbed to the hype. I don't think this is "one of the most fascinating things that I've ever come across" (sorry, Tom). I might have even got a little bored had it (and my train journey) been slightly longer. I do think it's a great read but I haven't been shoving it in everyone's hands since.
It really doesn't matter how Stoner came to be stocked on every shelf across the country. It doesn't really matter why it's become quite as popular as it has. There's something terribly apt about a decent, quiet book about a quiet man being celebrated fifty years after the fact.
Kat Brown is away. On a beach in Thailand reading even more books. We're green with envy.