William Stoner is born on the end of the nineteenth century into a dirt-poor Missouri farming circle of relatives. Sent to the state university to check agronomy, he as an alternative falls in love with English literature and embraces a scholar’s life, so different from the hardscrabble existence he has known. And yet as the years pass, Stoner encounters a succession of disappointments: marriage into a “right kind” circle of relatives estranges him from his parents; his career is stymied; his wife and daughter turn coldly away from him; a transforming enjoy of recent love ends under threat of scandal. Driven ever deeper within himself, Stoner rediscovers the stoic silence of his forebears and confronts an crucial solitude.
John Williams’s luminous and deeply moving novel is a work of quiet perfection. William Stoner emerges from it no longer only as an archetypal American, but as an not going existential hero, standing, like a figure in a painting by Edward Hopper, in stark relief against an unforgiving world.