Blood Out of a Stoner

I don’t quite know why I’m writing this when I have completely lost faith in this kind of blog post, but Mr Litlove and I have discussed Stoner and its problems so much he said he’d be interested to see how it came out. So, for what it’s worth, these are the processes of thought that occurred to me over the course of the past couple of weeks, as Mr Litlove read John William’s novel, Stoner, to me, and the book turned out to be so very different to my expectations. All I knew about Stoner was that it had had a massive rediscovery somewhere around 2011 and been hailed as an unjustly forgotten masterpiece. I’d seen loads of rave reviews in which it was called beautiful, gentle, moving, sad. I was in no way prepared, then, for how much it would annoy me.

The story is indeed simple: William Stoner grows up on a farm in the Midwest of America, but when his father sends him to college to study agriculture, Stoner has a revelation and a change of heart. He falls in love with American literature and carries on at Columbia as a teacher for the rest of his working life. He makes a disastrous marriage to a neurotic harpy who seems determined to ruin any chance of domestic happiness, and he makes a dangerous enemy of a neurotic colleague who becomes Head of Department and impedes Stoner’s career progression.  Stoner remains stoic throughout these trials, maintaining his passion for literature, or maybe just putting one foot in front of the other, it’s hard to tell in John Williams’ masterly style which I came to think of as: don’t show and don’t tell.

For instance, Stoner’s epiphany and his conversion to literature come in a Shakespeare class in which he is asked the meaning of a sonnet. All Stoner can get out is ‘It means….’ in a sentence he simply cannot finish. And that is all we’ll ever hear about Stoner’s passion for literature. Mr Litlove felt that this was deeply unsatisfactory. He came to think that Stoner loved literature because work on the farm was so hard, so awful, and by comparison an English degree was a doddle. I didn’t think that; I could believe that Stoner loved literature, but I wondered then how Stoner could be so unable to articulate himself, despite that prolonged and profound study in how language is used to describe and shape life.

The real problem for me began with Stoner’s marriage. He falls in love with a young woman, Edith, who happens to be staying for a few weeks with relatives who are connected to the university. Stoner sees her and falls in love with her and then he lays siege to her. Their relationship is from the get-go awkward, embarrassed and without a trace of love. They aren’t even friends. But Stoner persists in desiring marriage and Edith seems to go along with it. Then we get to the honeymoon which is always going to be difficult with two innocent and stilted people. So far, so plausible, and we can all wonder how any of our ancestors managed life prior to the availability of the internet. Then Williams takes us right into the marriage bed:

When he returned Edith was in bed with the covers pulled up to her chin, her face turned upward, her eyes closed, a thin frown creasing her forehead… For several moments he lay with his desire, which had become an impersonal thing, belonging to himself alone. He spoke to Edith, as if to find a haven for what he felt; she did not answer. He put a hand upon her and felt beneath the thin cloth of her night-gown the flesh he had longed for. He moved his hand upon her; she did not stir; her frown deepened. Again he spoke, saying her name to silence; then he moved his body upon her, gentle in his clumsiness. When he touched the softness of her thighs she turned her head sharply away and lifted her arm to cover her eyes. She made no sound.’

And the next line is: ‘Afterward he lay beside her and spoke to her in the quietness of his love.’ Now John Williams can load up this passage with all the pity for Stoner that he wishes, and he can try to insist on his gentleness, but this is still a brutal act. He forces himself upon a deeply unwilling wife. As I had Mr Litlove right there to represent the male gender, I asked him what in pity’s sake made a man keep going under such dreadful circumstances,when every indication from his partner was bad?

‘Well,’ said Mr Litlove thoughtfully. ‘He’s been brought up on a farm and so he’s seen animals mating and that’s all he knows.’

‘Yes,’ i said, ‘but what about instincts? Surely he has some basic human instinct that this is NOT going well and that he ought to hold back, maybe even ask a few direct questions?’

‘Hmm,’ said Mr Litlove. ‘I guess it’s being brought up on a farm.’

So much for male insight. But as I realised that this was something that Mr Litlove didn’t understand either, I began to see an answer. Oh you can say this was a different era, when men and women didn’t have a clue and men’s conjugal rights were a thing of law. But it bothered me so, that ability of Stoner’s to persist against all odds, to keep going when he ought to try and have at least a full conversation with Edith first, on any topic, before attempting to have sex with her. And it occurred to me that intimacy was the missing factor here.

‘I said to Mr Litlove, ‘Isn’t it the case that men don’t need intimacy to have sex, whereas for a woman, sex without emotional intimacy is an insult, a violation.’

‘Oh yes,’ said Mr Litlove. ‘But after all, farmyard animals….’

In these few moments the full extent of men’s capacity for blindness to the quality of intimacy was brought home to me as never before. If they don’t need it, they don’t need to know they’re missing it, and so they may have no conception of it. So what happens next in the Stoner household? Does Stoner realise the error of his ways and attempt to get to know his wife as a whole human being? Of course not. He takes to having sex with her when she’s asleep and less resistant and he can almost pretend to himself that she quite likes it. By this point, I felt that whatever Edith might do to Stoner in the future, he deserved it.

Well, Edith decides she wants a child, but when Grace is born, she develops a kind of chronic fatigue that makes her unable to look after her. So poor old Stoner, thanks to his misunderstood, emotionally abandoned and sexually abused wife, has to work AND do the childcare. Outrageous, no? Not to mention the fate of most working mothers to this very day. A few years later, with Edith more or less recovered, and Stoner shut away in his study with Grace all the time he’s at home, Edith makes a bid to take back power of parenting. She does it in an ugly way, clearly intent on exerting the control over Grace that she has lost over her own body. Stoner has an attempt to talk to her, but by now a spell of atrophy has taken over Stoner’s common sense and the rule of ‘nothing can change’ has overwhelmed him. He fails to make Edith see reason and, fearing reprisals on the child, abandons them both to each other. If I’d been angry with Stoner before, now I was absolutely furious with him. If one parent has gone a bit crazy, you do not start abandoning your child to them because you lack the backbone and the moral fibre to stand up to their poor behaviour. But Stoner’s busy grizzling because he’s lost the space he used to research in and can’t write his book. Oh poor, kind, gentle Stoner! All he suffers!

But never fear, because no white male author will deprive his white male protagonist of what he really wants. Into Stoner’s life comes a mistress, Katherine Driscoll, a talented graduate student. Katherine is Stoner’s soulmate and wants lots of sex, which is great because then Stoner doesn’t have to learn anything about creating and maintaining relationships. They’re found out, of course, but Stoner carries on, seemingly unbothered by guilt, until his department nemesis is hellbent on causing trouble for Katherine. Now this is a shame because despite himself, Stoner is learning something about love: ‘he saw it as a human act of becoming, a condition that was invented and modified moment by moment and day by day, by the will and the intelligence and the heart.’ Now this is good stuff, hopeful and illuminating. This is a big step for mankind as represented by Stoner. But when it comes to it, and they either have to make a break for it together or split up, well, you can guess by now which Stoner chooses:

‘Because in the long run,’ Stoner said, ‘it isn’t Edith or even Grace, or the certainty of losing Grace, that keeps me here; it isn’t the scandal or the hurt to you or me; it isn’t the hardship we would have to go through, or even the loss of love we might have to face. It’s simply the destruction of ourselves, of what we do’

I’ve read this sentence many times now and I still don’t understand what Stoner means. Is he saying that they are too moral? Because that would be weird, given the public nature of the affair. Is he saying they wouldn’t get work? Because Katherine’s subsequent career refutes that. The only thing I can think of that really fits with Stoner’s behaviour is that he would have to accept change and loss, both things he has never done, except for that one moment at the start of the novel when he chose literature over the farm. It’s as if a rock has fallen in love with literature and this is so extraordinary that one can expect nothing more from it – any more would be blood out of a Stoner.

And there is nothing more to expect from Stoner. He suffers the loss of Katherine, he ages prematurely, he dies. I was left wondering to what extent we were meant to feel sorry for him. The narrative is full of compassion for Stoner, it portrays him as perpetually wronged, as being unfortunate and unlucky. But whenever I looked closely at that text, Stoner seemed to get exactly what he wanted. Throughout the novel he denies and rejects the possibility of change, choosing instead to remain with the comfy and familiar, and in doing so he denies happier lives to Edith, Grace and Katherine. And I wondered so much, oh so much, how come this novel had been so widely acclaimed in the 21st century when it is fundamentally the story of a would-be gentle man who doggedly perpetuates gender rancour?

The thing is, for me Stoner embodies white male privilege, and we endorse it if we feel sympathy for him. Stoner has been little more than adequate in everything he has done; do we really think he deserved more than he got? If Stoner’s is a sad, unjust life, then we must believe that he should be given rewards for minimal exertion, that he should not have to make sustained, prolonged effort for what is good in life, nor engage in complicated, difficult negotiations and compromises. Life is cruel, yes, but not especially so to Stoner, whose real tragedy lies in his overwhelming passivity and his inability to speak his emotional truth. Stoner has no curiosity about the emotional life of others – his own is a mystery to him – and so he has no idea of the care he might give, of the potential generosity of spirit he might embody. Instead he choses minimal responsibility and emotional cowardice, and this is what life looks like under the auspices of such choice.

 

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50 thoughts on “Blood Out of a Stoner

  1. I agree with you, I picked it up when it had all those rave reviews and was reissued a few years back. Found it depressingly conventional and emotionally stilted, and couldn’t even finish it. Whatever it was that people saw in it, I just couldn’t find it.

    • Oh now that’s encouraging! Emotionally stilted is a very good way of describing it. I find myself actively relieved that you (as a male reader) did not find yourself described by it and couldn’t relate. You’ve got to wonder what happens when a novel gets all these rave reviews!

  2. Well, reading your review makes me even surer that I’ve done the right thing by consigning this to the donation boxes in the hall. It was lauded when it came out and having read several posts recently highlighting the incredible misogyny I find myself wondering why?????

    And I think you need to have a gentle word with Mr. Litlove about farmyard animals….. ;D Many wild creatures have a love bond and mate for life…

    • I am still laughing about Mr L and the farmyard animals! I think that will come as news to him and I’m looking forward to telling him. 😉 I’m so interested to hear that other posts have highlighted the misogyny. I had a quick search online but only found glowing reviews, but maybe that’s because the search puts mass publications first? Or maybe this is a recent wave of readings? Anyway, it is very hard to read in 2019 and I think you did the right thing too!

  3. This was for me a peculiar read…I thought the book was so well written but at the same time so poorly executed and so pointless. No one changes, no one develops emotionally or morally or for that matter degenerates, but your criticism in that it takes great note of the misogyny , has made me look at the book in a new way albeit also negatively!

    • Di you are quite right that it is extremely well written – and also that no one changes or develops. I found that so frustrating for so many reasons! Listening to it read out loud made me more attentive to the little details. I think it would be easy to miss the misogyny as Edith’s neurotic behaviour is so much louder, as it were.

  4. This is such a good and interesting post, Victoria. I have to admit that I loved the novel (which I read a couple of months ago), swept away by how good the writing was. And I did feel a great deal of sympathy for Stoner in his workplace bullying – and, indeed, in Edith’s attempts to use Grace as a weapon. I guess because I empathised with his deep horror of conflict and his lamentable passivity. But your post is certainly making me think about it in a new light. (I should add – the marriage, and especially the consummation, didn’t make sense to me. I wasn’t sure what we were supposed to be thinking, other than that it should never have happened.)

    I will just add that my dad grew up on a farm :O

    • Oh Simon, your last remark did make me laugh! I’ve just read it (and Karen’s) out to Mr Litlove who has just come in and it made him laugh out loud too.

      You are completely right about the quality of the writing, which is excellent. And the bit I liked best was the part set in the university (where alas, such bullying is commonplace). I am so conflict-avoidant myself that I’m surprised in a way that I wasn’t more moved by that. But I suppose I do like to deal with emotions (much to Mr Litlove’s regret!!). I have this line I peddle a lot that denial just leaves a horrible mess for someone else to clear up, and so I suppose one must practice what one preaches, etc. I also think that being read books out loud makes a difference to what you hear. If I ever do get to read a page to myself I notice how much faster I go. At least twice if not three times the speed and then different things make an impact. The marriage is definitely an odd part and could easily be seen as just one more awkwardness to add to all the others.

      Heh, I am so glad you liked the title! Thank you.

    • Oh thank you, Laura, that will cheer Mr Litlove. He was sitting behind me a little while back, reading the post on his phone and mumbling to himself, ‘Who IS this Mr Litlove? He’s an idiot.’ (Though he did, also, laugh a lot.) Stoner is beautifully written, but it did also annoy the hell out of me!

  5. Did this one with the book group a couple of years back and we (Ladies) were all left scratching our heads wondering why it was being described as an overlooked masterpiece! Firstly, I think we ordinary reader mortals are far too prone to accepting what we are told. It is a masterpiece. Ergo, any protestations of incredulity must, therefore, mean that we are the ones at fault. It couldn’t be the critics, surely? That is, until like yourself, we say hold the bus, this was tedious, and Stoner was a self-obsessed, emotionally retarded bore.
    Secondly, we women have also been too ready to accept the views of MALE readers. IT WAS ALL EDITH’s FAULT. OF course. That is what I unthinkingly accepted, until again, like you, I stopped to think.
    Great post.
    Our latest book group choice was Circe and that made me see history/mythology in a whole different way. Why have we women swallowed these stories about “brave heroes” when most of the time they acted like bloodthirsty, deranged psychopaths. Pat Barker’s The Silence of the Girls was another eye opener from this point of view.
    Sorry. Bit of a rant there.

    • Yes, it was the representation of Edith that really got me. Initially it seemed unmotivated and I felt that Edith hadn’t been given a chance. But that awful bedroom scene just opened the way to a very different interpretation. I mean, we sat down with it too thinking, this is going to be great! And poor Mr Litlove might have enjoyed it if I hadn’t poked so many holes in it as we went along… 😉 I have Circe to listen to – looking forward to that and I’ve heard very good things about the Pat Barker. For SO many reasons, I think it’s about time we started questioning strength and power as the most admirable qualities a human being can have.

  6. A renowned feminist critic, Elaine Showalter, wrote an op-ed piece in either the NY Times or the Washington Post arguing that Stoner is not a masterpiece. It was a few years ago and I can’t remember exactly what she said but I thought you might be interested in reading it.

  7. “Life is cruel, yes, but not especially so to Stoner, whose real tragedy lies in his overwhelming passivity and his inability to speak his emotional truth. Stoner has no curiosity about the emotional life of others – his own is a mystery to him – and so he has no idea of the care he might give, of the potential generosity of spirit he might embody.”
    Amen, amen and amen for this assessment! For years I though I was the only person who was not head over heels in love with this book. My dislike for Stoner, the character, has grown with time. I actually had a chance to speak in public with Edwin Frank the editor of NYRB Classics in Calcutta this year and he said that it is Europe that has fueled the books success. That surprised me because the most passionate advocates I knew were American but by contrast the book has apparently not done as well in the US. Gave me faint hope.

    • How fascinating to have been able to talk to Edwin Frank! Yes, Stoner is a very melancholy book, which isn’t a quality I associate with American novels on the whole, whereas there’s a big melancholy tradition in European literature into which it sits quite comfortably. Though that isn’t the most problematic aspect! I keep thinking to myself, what would this book be like if Stoner were a woman? It seems to me that so much about the gender divide can be found right there.

      • Edwin has the most interesting stories. I was able to sit in on a class he taught at Seagull Books’ School of Publishing and then he and I conducted a public conversation that evening (no pressure). I wonder if men are slightly more inclined to like this book. As a transgender man who lived as a straight woman for 40 years before becoming a single male parent, I found his treatment of the women in his life unforgivable. Also, at the time I was working with brain injury and I recall thinking that if he had fallen off a turnip truck and landed on his head back on the farm I would understand his behaviour perfectly. But there seemed to no justification for his appalling apathy.

      • Wow, what a fascinating life you have led! And I also love roughghosts as a moniker. It’s very interesting that you should talk about turnip trucks and head injuries. Mr Litlove and I wondered if there wasn’t a form of autism at work, though we neither of us know enough about it to comment, really. And that must have been an amazing time spent with Edwin. I would have love to have heard some of those stories.

  8. That was interesting. I read the book a few years ago and really enjoyed it. I do not deny my white male privilege and I hate to admit that I cannot even remember that sex scene, which does seem appalling but also all too easy to imagine happening in real life.

    Nevertheless, I never thought that I was meant to like Stoner. What I did like was exactly the way he brought about his own misery while staying completely oblivious to his own part in his fate. Then again, I did my thesis in tragedy and am bound to see tragic themes everywhere. I am also a failed academic and envied him for having an academic career!

    • What I should have added is that I am very happy to see that the book has inspired this post – and also baffled by so many of the comments on this post. To see people who still read judge a book by a blog post, or an NYT piece, about it, instead of reading it themselves, well, that way darkness lies.

    • I really like what you say about Stoner bringing about ‘his own misery while staying completely oblivious to his own part in his fate’. I think that’s a very accurate way of looking at the book, and so our only difference is how we personally react to that. And that’s fine, I would always rather find a way to enjoy a novel if possible. However, I think you might want to reframe Stoner’s academic career as a reason why you might have dodged a bullet! Also, my husband would just as readily have gone past the sex scene without noticing anything, so you’re not alone. I, too, think it’s realistic – that’s the alarming part.

    • Yup, you didn’t miss anything by not getting to the end, Annabel! I would have loved to discuss this in a book group – it seems a very good book to take apart in company!

  9. I was not a fan either. I didn’t hate it, but like you I have been baffled at the soaring praise it has inspired.

    • It’s interesting, isn’t it? The older I get, the more intrigued I am by differences of interpretation, and by books that suddenly go viral. It does make me wonder what’s behind it when on the whole the book world is not at all biddable!

  10. A little like Simon, I thought very highly of this novel when I read it a few years ago, mostly because of the quality of the writing. The idea of focusing on one man’s life also appealed to me – the sense that we all have stories to tell however unremarkable or ‘ordinary’ our lives may seem to be.

    Looking back at it now, I wonder whether I got caught up in the whole rush of praise for the novel without really questioning the characters’ actions, particularly Stoner’s behaviour towards Edith. I love how you’ve written about your responses to this novel – it’s a really great piece, one that prompts me to reassess my own perceptions of the book. I almost want to read it again to see how I feel second time around!

    PS I too loved the title to your piece, a truly inspired thought!

    • Jacqui, thank you. It really IS an amazingly well written novel, and I also liked the idea of the ordinary life being extraordinary. I know I read somewhere an analysis that saw Stoner as an introvert and said how good it was to have that personality type represented. Though in all honesty, I don’t know that Stoner fits the introvert profile exactly and there also seem to be plenty of them in stories! But I’m all for the quiet life in literature.

      I really notice how different it is to listen to a book rather than to read it, and I do think it makes you focus on other things. Also, I found The Great Gatsby – a novel I adored when I read it – and The House of Mirth (ditto) – really didn’t work for me in audiobook format. I’m still puzzling about all this and why it should be so. I must come and find your review and Simon’s (if you wrote one) of this novel. I’d like to hear the other side about it too.

      • I haven’t written about it. In fact, it may well have been a pre-blog read for me. That said, your piece is definitely making me question my somewhat faded impressions of the book. I genuinely think I may well have been swept away by the groundswell of enthusiasm and reverence for this book at the time of the Vintage reissue!

  11. Absolutely brilliant review — I laughed out loud at your wonderful analysis. ‘It’s as if a rock had fallen in love with literature’ is the most fantastic line. Thank you for being unsparing in sparing me this appalling novel. This and others of its kind we no longer need. May they be lost in the archives as they deserve to be. Time to tell some very different stories.

    • I thought of you especially when Stoner has to take care of his child AND work. It did amuse me to think about what you would have said to that! But also, the discussion we were having about caring was very much in my mind. I think it’s precisely the kind of care we were discussing that Stoner lacks, and that it accounts for much of the sterility of his life. Definitely we need different stories of caring, and as quickly as possible, in our culture.

  12. Actually, reading Markku N.’s comment above I was immediately reminded of Gide’s narrators in his récits, and also of Coetzee’s Disgrace. It is perhaps possible to see Stoner as a classic unreliable narrator, as Markku says, ‘oblivious’ to the part he plays in his own downfall, and the novel as a wonderful study of self-justification, à la Proust, or Houellebecq. However I am so tired of the knowingly unreliable narrator – it does seem like an exercise in passive aggression to write like a victim when one is in a position of power. This is a knotty narrative problem I’ve struggled with massively in writing Motherload – how to talk about being victimISED without actually being or becoming a victim of that victimisation.

    • Oh YES, I thought of Gide and had forgotten it. I was thinking about the rule of Gide’s novellas that you can tell the truth about a man from the state of his wife. I love what you say about separating the act of victimisation from its effects, because one can resist those effects, after all, and still have a social problem that needs addressing. Can’t wait to read Motherload, Ingrid.

  13. There were plenty of things that I liked about Stoner, such as the writing and the general sense of disappointed hopes that pervades the novel. Despite Stoner being a reasonably successful person, he never lived up to his own expectations, and that’s something I think a lot of people can relate to, whether it’s reasonable or not.

    But the depiction of Edith nearly wrecked the book for me. The character just seemed so incoherently written, behaving in whatever way was needed to serve the plot, with little interest on the part of Stoner or the author in getting to the bottom of why she acted the way she did. The book shows such empathy for Stoner that there’s no room for anyone else, and I found that extremely frustrating because there was clearly something going on with Edith worth exploring further.

    • So interesting to hear your thoughts, Teresa. It is really well written, definitely agree with you and I very much like your comment about Stoner’s expectations. I hadn’t thought about that aspect. But evidently, I also agree wholeheartedly about Edith. She did wreck the book for me!

  14. Amazingly I have read this novel. No idea it is/was considered a masterpiece and as you will imagine, I was fairly unaware of the enthusiasm and praise for it a few years ago. I think you have, as always, written a truly excellent review and I agree with your premise completely about Stoner. I found his complete insensitivity to Edith very disturbing (though plausible) but that in principle is fine and I am not someone who believes that one has to like characters in novels. It is all too relentlessly Stoner-centric and that for me was a weakness despite the excellent writing.

    • DP, love to hear your thoughts about this, and Stoner-centric is a delightful way of putting it. Yes, I would have been so happy if Stoner had really learned anything about his emotional life, and perhaps it’s realistic that he doesn’t. But it is a risk then to make him so central. Stoner does take up all the oxygen, and you do want some sort of payback for that. Thank you also for your very kind words – they mean a lot.

  15. I’ve been on the fence about this one. Like you, I heard many rave reviews of it when it was rediscovered, but something kept putting me off, perhaps some less enthusiastic reviews did seep through, or else I feared some of that middle-aged white male privilege (which, oh, boy, I’ve read enough of in French literature and other literature).

    • Ha yes, the white male privileged viewpoint is not exactly underrepresented, is it?! I had really only read these glowing reviews and so I was taken aback completely by the book itself. Expectations are such powerful influences. Well do let me know if you read it – I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  16. I think it would have been more “fair” had you included the passage about the wedding night: (page 67 of the NYRB edition: they are entering their hotel room and Edith feels ill. “William wanted to find her a doctor, but she insisted that she was only tired, that she needed rest. They spoke gravely of the strain of the day, and Edith hinted at some delicacy that troubled her from time to time. She murmured, but without looking at him, and without intonation in her voice, that she wanted their first hours together to be perfect.

    And William said: “They are–they will be. You must rest. Our marriage will begin tomorrow”….he spent his wedding night apart from his wife, his long body curled stiffly and sleeplessly on a small sofa.”

    You make some good points, but overall I think you’d be more fair in your assessment if you had included the information that he was alone on his wedding night and deferred to her sense of illness.

    Yes, they should be talking more but neither has skill in such speech or experience.

    • Well then, thank you for posting that part. I’m all for readers making up their own minds and this is only my reading of the novel, how it struck me at the time.

      For me, I have to admit, it makes it even more strange that Stoner, who is indeed reticent and passive by nature as your quotation shows, should act so decisively at what feels like the wrong moment. I’m not saying this is unrealistic or unusual – quite the opposite. I think that it’s an unexpectedly lucid account of what can happen to this day between men and women that causes much unhappiness to both.

  17. Pingback: Tea or Books? #74: YA (yay or nay?) and Stoner vs The Easter Parade – Stuck in a Book

  18. Very interesting review on a novel that’s been on my TBR list for quite some time. I really appreciate the different perspective from all those rave reviews since its reissuance. Although I’ll have to wait and see what I think of the novel myself, I suspect I won’t be a glowing fan ….

    • It’s beautifully written and there are definitely two sides to this debate, so enjoy making your own mind up. And nip back to tell me what you think – I’d love to know!

  19. We read this at work book group. I was definitely expecting great things that I never got! One of the group (a man!) said that he felt almost moved to tears by the end of it. I thought your take on it was much nearer the mark for how I felt. I’m glad to have read it, just to see what the fuss was all about.

    • Yes, I’m also glad to have read it to see what the fuss was about! And fascinating to hear the feedback from your book group. I am so glad we both feel similarly, and not quite as moved as the other member of your group. Well perhaps it’s just one of those Marmite books….

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