Cecily's Reviews > Stoner

Stoner by John  Williams
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After 63 pages: “Stunned by Stoner. This is agonisingly wonderful.”

At the end: “Finished. Him and me. Exquisite but exhausted.”
Then I immediately started rereading - something I have only previously done with children’s picture books.

It is, without question, my joint favourite book ever. The other, utterly different ones are Titus Groan/Gormenghast (which I reviewed HERE) and the Heaven and Hell trio (which I reviewed HERE). But it’s hard to explain its mesmerising power in a way that does it justice.

What Sort of Story?

It opens with a page of downbeat, but carefully crafted spoilers, rather like an obituary, after which, the story is told straightforwardly and chronologically, from William Stoner’s last days at school and on his parents’ farm, to life as a university student, then university faculty member, marriage, parenthood, affair, and finally his death. His main joy is literature, and the university that enables him to share that love with others, reflected in simple but heartfelt words on his retirement, “Thank you all for letting me teach”.

It sounds dull, banal or both, but it's not. It's heartbreakingly beautiful, without being sentimental, and because Stoner is never without hope, I didn't find it a depressing.

Contrasts: Eloquence and Inarticulacy, Strong and Weak, Success and Failure, Gain and Loss

It’s a book about language and literature, and yet inarticulacy is a recurring theme: it is the direct cause of most of the pain, but also the trigger for his main happiness: in a compulsory literature review, it is his inability to understand, or perhaps to explain his understanding of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73 that triggers a life-long passion and career. This reticence or inability to talk about innermost thoughts is perhaps one reason why the causes of Edith's behaviour are only hinted at: anything more explicit would set the wrong tone (and might not have been appropriate when published).

Almost all Stoner’s dreams come true, but happiness is always elusive and ephemeral. The good things are lost or, worse still, taken away by someone he had hoped would be his love or friend (Edith and Lomax, respectively). Both antagonists are sensitive, damaged people (as is Stoner) and Lomax even shares his love of literature for similar reasons (escape).

One message of the book is “carpe diem” (seize the day, or in youth speak: YOLO), which is also reflected in Sonnet 73’s focus on decay, death, and enjoying what we have while we can.

Stoner can be brave, such as swapping from an agricultural degree course with its predictable future to an English literature degree, inspired by a sonnet he struggled to explain – and yet he doesn’t have the courage to tell his parents until after they’ve attended his graduation.

What Sort of Man?

Some see Stoner as passive and weak. Certainly there are many times when I wanted him to act differently, or just to act at all - in particular, to stand up for his daughter and his lover.

Instead, he is quietly stoical, which is apt, given his areas of interest include classical Greek literature. His quiet stoicism, born of parental fortitude and nurtured by habit and habitat runs too deep for him to act as others would.

He loses everything he values (even the rapport with his students and the ability to enjoy his books) and in many respects, he is a failure as son, husband, father, lover, even scholar – but he keeps going, never bearing a grudge, trying his best. So sad, and yet curiously inspirational.

There are some autobiographical aspects: from a dirt-poor farm to university lecturer, and of personality and (some) demons. See this interview with Nancy Gardner Williams: HERE.

Time and Place

Unlike some readers, I find Stoner entirely believable, especially when you consider the much higher social cost of divorce back then.

Would the story be any happier if it were set today? It would certainly be different, but flawed people raise flawed people. Tolstoy famously wrote “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” and that would be just as true of one unhappy family transplanted from one period in history to another.

In a contemporary setting, even if he had married Edith (unlikely?), she would surely have got help (bi-polar abuse survivor?), though maybe too late to fend off divorce. Either way, matters would turn out better for Katherine and Grace, and Lomax and Walker would probably not have got away with as much as they did. I'm sure it's no coincidence that Williams set it more than a generation earlier than the time he was writing.

Speaking to Me

Why did this book move me in such a direct and personal way? I'm not a man, not American, wasn't born at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries and have never been a farmer or a professor. But I do love books, I do need escape sometimes, and I did spend much of my childhood on a family farm, though there was never any expectation that I would be a farmer.

The farm is part of it though: in some ways, Stoner reminds me of my beloved grandfather, who died when I was 14. Although he had a happier life than Stoner, he had the same quiet but dogged resilience, and always tried to make the best of what life or wife threw at him.

The other aspect that poured from the pages, especially second time round, was the emotional damage caused by bad parenting (albeit sometimes with good intentions), caused or exacerbated by poor communication. I was repeatedly reminded of Larkin’s famous lines “They fuck you up your mum and dad… But they were fucked up in their turn” (see below). Although I had a largely happy childhood, there were odd, complex and problematic aspects that have left their mark on the sort of adult and parent I am, and although I’m the mother of a wonderful 20 year old, I’m very conscious of things my husband and I could, and perhaps should, have done differently. (I think we’re doing better than the Stoners, though.)

Other Themes

Soil. Stoner is a son of the soil and there are many allusions to its power to spread and bind, whether seeping through the floorboards or being ingrained in the skin or mind. Soil chemistry is the only agricultural course mentioned by name, and Stoner enjoyed it – until he discovered his greater love: literature. He is transplanted from the countryside to the university, where he puts down roots, and stays – no matter what.

The university is the setting for almost all of the novel and arguably a character in its own right. Early on, one of the characters muses whether it is a path to self-fulfillment, an instrument for social good, or just an asylum. The novel quietly demonstrates that it is all three.

“Lust and learning… that’s really all there is” says one character, but both of those need an outlet. The insularity of most of the main characters and their unwillingness or inability to discuss or even show their feelings means they are lonely outsiders who can’t relish life. That aloneness exerts a high price that manifests itself in different ways; the saddest outcome is for Grace, Stoner’s daughter. We need to reach out to each other, communicate, and seize the day.

At times, Stoner is like Don Quixote, with Gordon Finch as a brighter and more influential sidekick than Sancho. This friendship is the one enduring human relationship. Finch repeatedly takes risks to help his friend, and yet it is a very understated friendship, that is not especially close. An area to explore further on a reread?

Problematic Aspects

There are three troubling aspects, but that conflict is part of what makes the book compelling:

• Two characters are self-described “cripples”. Times and vocabulary have changed, so that’s not the issue. What is harder is the fact that both characters are unpleasant and both use their disability to make false and malicious claims of prejudice to their own advantage.

• What are the issues around consent for (view spoiler)

• The emotional abuse and manipulation of children is ghastly – but sadly credible. (view spoiler)

Edith

Edith lurks in the shadows, pouncing occasionally. She is seen indirectly, in relation to Stoner and their daughter and it's easy to revile her for the slow and calculated cruelty she inflicts. I think Edith is meant to be closed and to some extent unknowable (because of her childhood) and because it puts the reader in Stoner's shoes.

I wondered if she was bi-polar. Such a term is never used, and I’m no expert, but her regular alternation between extreme industriousness and prolonged periods of being helpless and bedridden for no outwardly visible reason suggest something like that to me.

Another factor is surely her cold and repressive childhood, and (view spoiler). So it comes back to Larkin. Maybe that’s why she marries a virtual stranger (Stoner), saying “If it’s to be done… I want it done quick”, softening it by adding “I’ll try to be a good wife to you”.

Reminiscent Of

Apart from Larkin, aspects of this brought to mind:

• The father-daughter relationship in Williams' Augustus, reviewed HERE.

• Ian McEwan’s honeymoon novella On Chesil Beach, reviewed HERE.

• Any of the Richard Yates novels I’ve read, reviewed HERE.

• Stoicism, solace in literature, and connection to the soil in Cold Mountain, reviewed HERE.

• Another stoical, solitary, bookish, thoughtful man, embedded in his environment, though this one is almost faultless, is Jayber Crow, reviewed HERE.

• And the delightful, but less perfect Ebenezer Le Page, living his whole life on the little island of Guernsey, reviewed HERE.

• The paintings of Edward Hopper such as Room in New York: http://www.artexpress.ws/painting-img....

• If Stoner had followed his expected path through life, he would have been almost indistinguishable from the wonderful Harold and Raymond McPheron in Kent Haruf's two books, reviewed here:
Plainsong 5*
Eventide 5*

Williams' Four Novels, Compared

See the end of my review of his first (disowned) novel, Nothing But The Night, HERE.

Quotes

• “It was a lonely household… bound together by the necessity of its toil.”
• “Dust daily seeped up through the uneven floorboards.”
• In the library, “inhaling the must odor… as if it were an exotic incense”.
• “Don’t you understand about yourself yet? You’re going to be a teacher” because “you are in love”.
• “He conceived himself changed in that future, but he saw the future itself as the instrument of change rather than its object.”
• “He felt his love increased by its loss.”
• “He felt the urgency of study. Sometimes, immersed in his books, there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read… he realized how little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know.”
• “He moved outward from himself into the world which contained him.”
• “He had never got into the habit of introspection.”
• “He thought he felt the gaze of the young woman brush warmly across his face.”
• “From the curtained window, a dim light fell upon the blue-white snow like a yellow smudge.”
• “Each footstep crunched with muffled loudness in the dry snow.”
• “In that [first] half hour… she told him more about herself than she ever told him again.”
• “Her moral training… was negative in nature, prohibitive in intent, and almost entirely sexual. The sexuality, however, was indirect and unacknowledged; therefore it suffused every other aspect of her education… She was ignorant of her own bodily functions, she had never been alone to care for her own self one day of her life.”
• “Like many men who consider their success incomplete, he was extraordinarily vain.” (Not Stoner.)
• “She entered [her wedding] … slowly, reluctantly, with a kind of frightened defiance.”
• “Edith moved into the apartment as if it were an enemy to be conquered.”
• “Within a month he knew that his marriage was a failure; within a year he stopped hoping it would improve.”
• Spring, “caught up in the somnolence of a new season”.
• “He watched with amazement and love… as her face began to show the intelligence that worked within her.”
• “The cost exacted… by the soil… they were in the earth to which they had given their lives… It would consume the last vestiges of their substances. And they would become a meaningless part of that stubborn earth.”
• “The love of literature, of language, of the mystery of mind and heart… the love which he had hidden as if it were illicit and dangerous, he began to display, tentatively at first, and then boldly, and then proudly."
• “They seldom spoke of themselves or each other, lest the delicate balance that made their living together possible be broken.”
• A “strategy that disguised itself as loving concern, and thus against which he was helpless.”
• “a ghost of the old joy… a learning toward no particular end.”
• Friendship “had reached a point that all such relationships, carried on long enough, come to; it was casual, deep and so guardedly intimate that it was almost impersonal.”
• “A kind of lethargy descended upon him… Time dragged slowly around him.”
• “He could see nothing before him that he wished to enjoy and little behind him that he cared to remember.”
• “The person one loves at first is not the person one loves at last, and that love is not an end but a process through which one person attempts to know another.”
• Love is “neither a state of grace nor an illusion… a human act of becoming… by the will and the intellect and the heart.”
• “As the outer world closed upon them they became less aware of its presence… they seemed to themselves to move outside time.”
• Doom revealed “by grammatical usage: they progressed from the perfect – ‘We have been happy, haven’t we?’ – to the past – ‘We were happy – happier than anyone, I think’ – and at last came to the necessity of discourse.”
• “They coupled with the old tender sensuality of knowing each other well and with the new intense passion of loss.”
• “Indifference that became a way of living.”
• “She wandered like a ghost into the privacy of herself.”
• Stoner “did not allow himself the easy luxury of guilt”.
• “They had forgiven themselves for the harm they had done each other” – but what about the harm they did to Grace?
• “Lust and learning… That’s really all there is.”
• “Thank you for letting me teach.”


This Be The Verse, by Philip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

(For the record, I endorse the truth of the first two verses, but the third is a decision only you can make.)


Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73

This is the sonnet used by Stonor’s tutor:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold,
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day,
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou seest the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.
This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.
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Quotes Cecily Liked

John  Williams
“Sometimes, immersed in his books, there would come to him the awareness of all that he did not know, of all that he had not read; and the serenity for which he labored was shattered as he realized the little time he had in life to read so much, to learn what he had to know.”
John Williams, Stoner

John  Williams
“In his forty-third year William Stoner learned what others, much younger, had learned before him: that the person one loves at first is not the person one loves at last, and that love is not an end but a process through which one person attempts to know another.”
John Williams, Stoner

John  Williams
“The love of literature, of language, of the mystery of the mind and heart showing themselves in the minute, strange, and unexpected combinations of letters and words, in the blackest and coldest print—the love which he had hidden as if it were illicit and dangerous, he began to display, tentatively at first, and then boldly, and then proudly.”
John Williams, Stoner

John  Williams
“In the University library he wandered through the stacks, among the thousands of books, inhaling the musty odor of leather, cloth, and drying page as if it were an exotic incense.”
John Williams, Stoner

John  Williams
“He listened to his words fall as if from the mouth of another, and watched his father’s face, which received those words as a stone receives the repeated blows of a fist.”
John Williams, Stoner

John  Williams
“He felt himself at last beginning to be a teacher, which is simply a man to whom his book is true, to whom is given a dignity of art that has little to do with his foolishness or weakness or inadequacy as a man.”
John Williams, Stoner

John  Williams
“But the required survey of English literature troubled and disquieted him in a way nothing had ever done before.”
John Williams, Stoner

John  Williams
“but his long thin fingers moved with grace and persuasion, as if giving to the words a shape that his voice could not.”
John Williams, Stoner

John  Williams
“Lust and learning,” Katherine once said. “That’s really all there is, isn’t it?”
John Williams, Stoner

John  Williams
“Like all lovers, they spoke much of themselves, as if they might thereby understand the world which made them possible.”
John Williams, Stoner

John  Williams
“He was forty-two years old, and he could see nothing before him that he wished to enjoy and little behind him that he cared to remember.”
John Williams, Stoner


Reading Progress

November 17, 2014 – Shelved
November 17, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
November 17, 2014 – Shelved as: canada-and-usa
December 8, 2014 – Started Reading
December 8, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
December 9, 2014 –
page 63
22.66% "Stunned by Stoner. This is agonisingly wonderful."
December 10, 2014 –
page 81
29.14% "I'm reminded of Ian McEwan's "On Chesil Beach" (as well as Richard Yates in general). But so far, this trumps both, good as they are."
December 12, 2014 –
page 118
42.45% "This may be the first book I reread immediately after I finish it (not counting reading picture books to my son, when he was small)."
December 14, 2014 –
page 186
66.91% "It's taken a slightly different turn in the last couple of chapters (departmental politics) whilst remaining true to the tone, flow and character of the book."
December 16, 2014 –
page 228
82.01% "I have very mixed feelings about the outcome of the affair and the reasons for actions and in actions. Lots to ponder."
December 16, 2014 –
page 228
82.01% "I have very mixed feelings about the outcome of the affair and the reasons for actions and inactions. Lots to ponder."
December 18, 2014 –
page 288
100% "Finished. Him and me. Exquisite but exhausted."
January 6, 2015 – Finished Reading
January 15, 2015 – Shelved as: favourites
January 15, 2015 – Shelved as: miscellaneous-fiction
July 14, 2015 – Shelved as: historical-fict-20th-cent
December 4, 2015 – Shelved as: read-only-cos-of-gr-friends
December 14, 2016 – Shelved as: aaabsolute-favourites
June 8, 2017 – Shelved as: solitary-protagonist
July 10, 2018 – Shelved as: language-related

Comments Showing 1-50 of 160 (160 new)


Holly I've been wanting to read this so much!


message 2: by Cecily (last edited Dec 23, 2014 03:58AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cecily It is, without question, the joint best book (in terms of my involvement and admiration) I have ever read.

It is desperately sad in many ways, but Stoner is never without hope, so I didn't find it a depressing book.

Also, there is much I can identify with - even though I'm not a man, not American, wasn't born at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries and have never been an academic!


Dolors I am sure your review will be a fantastic tribute to Williams' masterpiece Cecily. Will be expecting to read it with bated breath.


Cecily Oh dear! That's a lot to live up to! Fingers crossed...


message 5: by Genevieve (new) - added it

Genevieve What an endorsement. You've sold me.


Paul Bryant review by the end of the year? Can't quite see it.... but I'm waiting for it because I can't quite grasp how this novel can be anything other than dull.


Cecily Paul wrote: "review by the end of the year? Can't quite see it.... but I'm waiting for it because I can't quite grasp how this novel can be anything other than dull."

I'm still rereading it, Paul.

It's hard to describe it in a way that doesn't make it sound dull. But it's not. It's heartbreakingly beautiful. I'll include lots of quotes, which will give you a feel for the prose.


message 8: by Fionnuala (new) - added it

Fionnuala Paul wrote: "review by the end of the year? Can't quite see it.... but I'm waiting for it because I can't quite grasp how this novel can be anything other than dull."

I certainly found it to be an odd and flat sort of book but I'll look out for your complete review, Cecily.


Cecily Fionnuala wrote: "I certainly found it to be an odd and flat sort of book"

I can see why you might feel that way, and yet it is utterly different from my own experience.


message 10: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa WOW! One of the best reviews I've ever read! I really need to read this. Great review, Cecily. Well done.


message 11: by Heather (new)

Heather This sounds great. Adding it. Thanks for the review.


message 12: by Emma (new) - rated it 3 stars

Emma This is waiting on my shelf to be read by me in the next couple of months, so I can't read your review yet. but I'm thrilled to see five stars.


message 13: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian "Marvin" Graye Cecily wrote: "Fionnuala wrote: "I certainly found it to be an odd and flat sort of book"

I can see why you might feel that way, and yet it is utterly different from my own experience."


I love the fact that the two of you have had such diverse reactions and that you've expressed them in your own reviews so eloquently.


message 14: by Samadrita (last edited Jan 15, 2015 10:29PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Samadrita What a complete review. I think these particular lines sum up your reaction to the book and mine too -

"It sounds dull, banal or both, but it's not. It's heartbreakingly beautiful, without being sentimental, and because Stoner is never without hope, I didn't find it a depressing."

Pertinent points about Edith. A lot of reviews stopped short of describing her as a villainess but I saw her as a victim of a repressed childhood channeling the same sort of abuse which destroyed her daughter's life. Perhaps, Edith was also unhappy with the marriage and felt trapped by it which was probably the cause of all her hostility. I felt sympathy for her.


Cecily Lisa wrote: "WOW! One of the best reviews I've ever read! I really need to read this. Great review, Cecily. Well done."

Thank you, Lisa. However, I know there are other powerful reviews on GR, indeed, that was how I came to read it in the first place (though I have not yet reread any since I read the book). There was a cumulative effect that put the book on my radar, but it was Steve's review that really did it:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...?


Cecily Heather and Emma, thanks for your comments and I wish you as profound an experience with this as I had.


Cecily Ian wrote: "I love the fact that the two of you have had such diverse reactions and that you've expressed them in your own reviews so eloquently."

Yes, and that's one of the things I love about GR. I have seen nastiness, but only rarely: most people are here for thoughtful and intelligent discussion, which they have in thoughtful and polite terms.


message 18: by Cecily (last edited Jan 16, 2015 12:01AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cecily Samadrita wrote: "Pertinent points about Edith. A lot of reviews stopped short of describing her as a villainess but I saw her as a victim of a repressed childhood channeling the same sort of abuse which destroyed her daughter's life. Perhaps, Edith was also unhappy with the marriage and felt trapped by it which was probably the cause of all her hostility. I felt sympathy for her."

I see her as both victim and villainess, and yes, that generates a degree of reluctant sympathy for her. I felt it more strongly second time round, partly because her tactics were less shocking (only because I already knew them), but also because I saw the burning as more significant. Maybe I inferred too much, but it doesn't seem like a normal reaction, even in shock and anger.


Dolors Fantastic deconstruction of themes and how they spoke to you Cecily. I inferred from some vague reference in the text that Edith had been a victim of sexual abuse by her own father, and that would explain her aversion to intimacy once a child is conceived. Great call in contrasting the blatant lack of communication between the couple with the scholarly background, which in turn is another source of disappointment for Stoner because can't abide the pointless rivalry among professors, the superficial demeanor of the teaching community and its conservative moral standards. This part of the story reminded me of works by Roth and Coetzee (particularly "Disgrace"), but I found Williams' character was more a dignified witness, a passive actor if you want, than a perpetrator of such system. Thanks for allowing me to revisit this book through your review Cecily, as it's also one of my favorites ever.


Cecily Thanks, Dolors, and I'm happy to have helped bring back fond memories of a favourite book.

I'm sure Edith was abused by her father, but whether it was sexual, I'm less sure, though your theory makes sense.

I really must add Disgrace to my TBR...


message 21: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Thanks so much for this, Cecily, especially for the poem at the end. For the record, I end up endorsing all three verses, and not at all sorry I have. The buck of this particular mess stops with me.


message 22: by Cecily (last edited Jan 20, 2015 04:22PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cecily I'm glad you found something of interest in my review, though it is a mere shadow of the book.

I've amended my final line in the light of your comment; I didn't mean to imply that everyone should have children, merely that I didn't endorse blanket advice against having them. Obviously it's a very personal decision.


message 23: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 21, 2015 05:35AM) (new)

You have seized this book with your review, which stuns me into an inarticulacy of my own, Cecily. I could feel your strong personal connection to this book even if you had not explained it so well, and I adore how you have integrated your personal life into your signature format--my favorite kind of review--one of the reader as well as the book. Because the book reads us, doesn't it? (Also you added a new term to my lexicon--YOLO, which I had to look up.) Okay, I may not have exhausted all connections to the recurring theme of inability to articulate, but your review leaves me speechless nonetheless. I was also interested in the parenting angle, which you felt reinforced by a second reading but which I had barely noticed in my first reading. (Though I must say that I felt it was strongly implied that Edith had been sexually abused by her father, based on my memory of her becoming sick on honeymoon and her behavior at her father's funeral. Moreover, this might explain her motivation in pre-emptively interfering in the relationship between father and daughter. I think that when Williams wrote "Stoner," writers dealt with these subjects obliquely as he also did in the implied romantic relationship between Stoner's nemesis and the disabled student. I absolutely loved the Larkin poem, with which I was unfamiliar, so I am glad you included it. Much truth there. My appreciation of my parents grew exponentially, when as a young prosecutor, I handled child welfare cases for one year, and I accompanied CWS on occasion into abusive homes that absolutely shocked me. So my own kids ought to think me a damn saint. :) This novel moved me as it did you, and I primarily identified with Stoner's lust for knowledge and aspired to his dignified way of enduring adversity. I love how you highlighted the quotation: "Thank you all for letting me teach." Thank you for letting me read your thoughts on a treasured book.


message 24: by Cecily (last edited Jan 20, 2015 11:57PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cecily Steve, you are never inarticulate on GR, and certainly not in your effusive comment, which is much appreciated. I'm also thrilled to have been able to teach you something, however trivial, and to introduce Larkin's poem to you. Try throwing YOLO into conversation and see how your teenagers react!

It's tricky to know how much of oneself to include in a review. It's something I've been trying to do recently, partly inspired by your example. Even without that, it would have been impossible for me to review this with detachment because it spoke so deeply to me.

I've read this novel twice, and there are still new aspects: although I'd assumed Edith's father abused her, I hadn't considered that Edith's dreadful machinations might be pre-empting anything too intimate between her husband and daughter, but you may well be right, and it's even more tragic. As for Lomax and Walker - why didn't I think of that?

Thank you for further enlightenment.


message 25: by ·Karen· (new) - added it

·Karen· This is on my pile. I'm intrigued: can hardly wait to see if I find it odd and flat like Fionnuala, or am blown out of the ball park like you.

Excellent review, Cecily. Sensitive.


message 26: by Traveller (new) - added it

Traveller Excellent review. Enough to make me add it.


message 27: by Fionnuala (new) - added it

Fionnuala Fine review, Cecily. That Larkin poem is apt as is the Hopper painting - such a subtle comment on the separateness there can be within a couple.
You make many great points here and there's no need for me to even address them because they cover much the same areas that I covered in my own review - in fact your review is like a perfect response to mine. It's interesting to see that we can spot the same flaws and yet reach a totally different conclusion in the end. Really, really intriguing.


Cecily Karen and Trav, I'm glad to have triggered your curiosity, and hope you enjoy the book as much as I did. I actually agree that it is "odd and flat", but for me, those were positives!

Fionnuala, thanks for your comments. I've just glanced at your review and I see what you mean about the counterpoints. I will comment on yours some time in the next few days when I start reading friends' reviews of it.


Jeffrey Keeten Powerful and beautiful review Cecily! Thank you for adding to the positive narrative of this book. I don't know how anyone could resist reading this book after reading your review. Bravo!!


message 30: by Shane (new)

Shane Great review of Stoner. I have a copy but not picked it up yet. At a bit of a loose end in reading terms, struggling with Charlotte Grey, she's not doing it for me!. I have read On Chesil Beach and liked it so I might give it a try. Thanks. Shane


message 31: by Alex (new) - rated it 4 stars

Alex there were a couple of passages where he seemed to care more about his lover than his daughter.

Yeah, totally.

Great review!


Cecily Jeffrey wrote: "Powerful and beautiful review Cecily! Thank you for adding to the positive narrative of this book. I don't know how anyone could resist reading this book after reading your review. Bravo!!"

Thank you, Jeffery. I've just been enjoying reading all my friends' reviews of this, including yours. There is a wonderfully positive theme, as you say. GoodReads at its best.


Cecily Shane wrote: "Great review of Stoner... I have read On Chesil Beach and liked it so I might give it a try."

If you enjoyed that, there's a good chance you'll enjoy this. I certainly hope so.


Cecily Thanks, Alex, and I'm glad you agree. Those were the occasions I wanted to step into the book and give him a shake.


message 35: by Tom (new)

Tom I've been wanting to read that for a while. thanks for the reminder.


message 36: by Joe (new) - added it

Joe Wow, incredible review. I frequently skim long reviews like this but you sucked me in and I read the whole thing.


Cecily I hope you enjoy it when you do read it, Tom.

Joseph, thank you so much for your kind words - it takes a good book to inspire a decent review (or, occasionally, a really bad one).


Karen Mardahl Beautiful review, Cecily! Thank you. It brought back emotions I felt and images I had during my own reading of the book.


Cecily Thanks, Karen. I'm so glad I this book was brought to my attention, and I've really enjoyed reading many reviews here on GR.


message 40: by Althea (new)

Althea Ann I can't believe I've never read that poem before. That's great!


message 41: by Lawyer (new)

Lawyer An utterly absorbing review of a novel I've not read, but now I know I absolutely must. The formatting of your review draws the reader from section to section. The comparison of Stoner to other works with which I'm quite familiar is indeed very helpful. The personal connection, I always find an essential element as it shows the interaction between the reader and the work. In short, an absolutely exquisite example of work which leads potential readers to open what is acknowledged to be an important novel. My thanks to you, Cecily.


David I totes just found this for £1.99 in an Oxfam! Buying on your recommendation.


Ellie Beautiful review, Cecily. I also agreed with the books this one is reminiscent of (incidentally, I love the choice of that word "reminiscent").

I loved Stoner and I also found it believable. Within the world and character John Williams creates, I completely believed every action Stoner took. Even when I wished he would behave differently, I wasn't surprised that he didn't.

The only difference is that the book did leave me quite depressed. The ending seemed like a confirmation of so much that went before: just when relief is in sight, it's dashed away. I also over-identified with Stoner for some odd reason (no farms at all in my background and while my marriage was somewhat problematic, motherhood was not). Maybe because for me, like so many of us, reading was a doorway that led to another, better world. And as the first person in my family to go to college, I had the same awe and confusion about the experience.

But despite its painfulness (for me), I loved Stoner. Maybe one day I'll read it again and appreciate it without being swallowed by it.

Again, thanks for a wonderful, thoughtful review.


Cecily Mike, thanks for your kind review of my review. I trust the book does not disappoint when you do read it.

David: only £1.99? Wow. Of course, I think it's easily worth ten times that, but if you can snap up a bargain and benefit a charity, all to get a wonderful book, that's even better.

Ellie, I'm sorry the book left you feeling somewhat depressed, but glad you were still able to give it 4*. Clearly it chimed with you a little too much. I hope you're feeling happier now, and that if (when?) you do reread it, it will be an unalloyed positive experience.


Holly Ive finally gotten round to starting this! :D


Cecily And you gave it 5*.
Yay!


Cecily I'm so pleased, Ian.

It was friends' reviews that made me aware of this book, and then pushed it to the top of my TBR pile.


Debbie "DJ" I've been eyeing this book for some time. Your review has pushed me over the edge. Thanks for such a highly engrossing review.


Cecily I was pushed by friends' reviews, so I'm happy to be able to do the likewise. I hope you enjoy it.


Gisela Oh, Cecily, what a heartfelt, thoughtful and articulate review of a brilliant book. I couldn't agree more with everything you've said. Thank you for articulating so clearly my own response to the novel. I borrowed this book from the library for my next book club meeting but I will be buying my own copy as I want to read it again and again ...


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