William Stoner is born at the end of the nineteenth century into a dirt-poor Missouri farming family. Sent to the state university to study agronomy, he instead 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 “proper” family estranges him from his parents; his career is stymied; his wife and daughter turn coldly away from him; a transforming experience of new love ends under threat of scandal. Driven ever deeper within himself, Stoner rediscovers the stoic silence of his forebears and confronts an essential solitude.
John Williams’s luminous and deeply moving novel is a work of quiet perfection. William Stoner emerges from it not only as an archetypal American, but as an unlikely existential hero, standing, like a figure in a painting by Edward Hopper, in stark relief against an unforgiving world.
"The work deserves to be called a 'perfect novel' — there's not a misplaced word or a trace of contrivance." --Boldtype
"The best book I read in 2007 was Stoner by John Williams. It’s perhaps the best book I’ve read in years." --Stephen Elliott, The Believer
"John Williams's Stoner is something rarer than a great novel - it is a perfect novel, so well told and beautifully written, so deeply moving, that it takes your breath away." --The New York Times Book Review
"Williams didn't write much compared with some novelists, but everything he did was exceedingly fine...it's a shame that he's not more often read today..." --The Denver Post
“A masterly portrait of a truly virtuous and dedicated man”—The New Yorker
“Why isn’t this book famous…Very few novels in English, or literary productions of any kind, have come anywhere near its level for human wisdom or as a work of art.”—C.P. Snow
“Serious, beautiful and affecting, what makes Stoner so impressive is the contained intensity the author and character share.”—Irving Howe, New Republic
“A quiet but resonant achievement”—The Times Literary Supplement
"Perhaps the greatest example of minimalism I’ve ever read... Stoner is a story of great hope for the writer who cares about her work." --Stephen Elliott