I was sure for some time that I hated this book. It's a tale about the truly unremarkable life of a man named William Stoner. I found it incredibly depressing; the decisions of the protagonist were vague and weak. His passions were tinged with failure, frustration and missed opportunity. Instead of fighting the world, William Stoner often simply succumbs to it.
However, without being truly aware of when the transition happened, the book won me over. Whilst it's sad, it's also a poignant. William Stoner is a hero, in a strange way. Not a bold or a charismatic one, but one who is quietly enduring and humbly passionate. Ultimately, it is the story of a life defined by the desire to do what one loves.
I'm struggling to write a descriptive review of this book because reading it felt like something of a personal journey. Therefore, I'm not going to go into my thoughts on his marriage or his career, though anyone reading this should feel free to engage me in a discussion.
My initial frustration at the decision-making and bleak acceptance of the main character laid the path for a sort of quiet respect for a man who does his very best without excelling. William Stoner's life is one of quiet intensity.
Never before has a book exemplified to me so well the George R.R. Martin quote, "A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one."
This book is one of those lives. Though the pacing of the book is excellent, I rarely found it comfortable to read. Troubling, insightful and thought provoking, I often found it difficult to shake off what I'd read after I put the book down. Contained within the pages are real human truths, and reading them has been a meaningful experience I won't soon forget.