Book Review: Slaughterhouse-Five

‘Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt…’

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Kurt Vonnegut has been on my to do list for a number of years now and by that I mean reading his books, not taking him out on a hot date, the latter being particularly unlikely as he has been dead for over ten years. So it goes…

Slaughterhouse-Five is the meta, modernist tale of Billy Pilgrim, a unfortunate American soldier who is captured during WWII and goes on to witness the bombing of Dresden. This isn’t the most remarkable thing about Pilgrim however when considering that he is also able to travel back and forth through time after being abducted by aliens dubbed the Tralfamadorions. These two events form the basis for a work that is angry, touching and frequently hilarious. Vonnegut has a sharp mind for self deprecation and goofy comedy and this enables this modern classic to never feel too much like a classic. Slaughterhouse-Five is a page turner, an easy read but also a completely intellectual work.

This is my first experience of Kurt Vonnegut and I didn’t realise that many of the characters in Slaughterhouse-Five reappear in his other work. Kilgore Trout, the failed science fiction writer whose books comfort Billy in hospital is the main protagonist in Breakfast of Champions for example. The thought of an new literary world to get lost in is an exciting one, particularly as Slaughterhouse-Five shares a lot of DNA with my favourite ever novel Catch 22.

For such a relatively short novel, Slaughterhouse-Five packs in a whole lot about philosophy, religion and war and as with all great novels, it immediately made me want to go out and read everything Vonnegut has ever written. Instead of doing that though I will probably watch cartoons and eat Coco Pops, but that fleeting moment of inspiration sure was something.

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