I Finished A Book: Stoner by John WIlliams

I picked up Stoner after reading a summer reading book list put together by Tom Hanks in Time Magazine.  I had started it two years ago and wasn’t in the right place to finish it at the time.  I went back a couple of weeks ago and made it my first completed novel for the summer.  It’s  a story about a farm boy who goes off to college to study agricultural science, only to become smitten with classic literature in his required, freshman English course.  This leads to hard years working to pay for his boarding and education and results in a long life as a tenured, under appreciated professor at the very college where he began.  The novel covers the arc of Stoner’s life and it is a sad one, filled with complex relationships both professional and personal. Both World Wars contribute to the novel’s atmosphere and the relationships of the characters, but it is not a war novel.  It is a love story and a story about early 20th century academic life, but mostly it is a book about loneliness and its many facets.  We see it manifest within marriages, affairs, families, and working environments and John Williams writes with a captivating tension that had me lamenting the way Stoner is treated by some of his peers, but admiring the way he handles it all.