Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Slaughterhouse-Five - Kurt Vonnegut

Summary: Slaughterhouse-Five is one of the world's greatest anti-war books. Centering on the infamous firebombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim's odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for the meaning in what we are afraid to know. (Summary from back of book, cover photo from

My Review: This is the story of Billy Pilgrim, a man who fought for his county in the World War II only to become a prisoner of war, which he escaped due to the bombing of Dresden. Once he arrives back he tries to live a normal life, marrying, having a child and becoming an optometrist but the war still haunts him on a deeper level. After the loss of his wife he starts believing that he has been abducted by aliens, clever aliens who live a life much simpler than our own American ones and are able to teach him some very simple yet important lessons.

This was a very easy read for a classic book. One that I flew through and only once closing the book was I able to ponder on all the subtle morals Vonnegut wove into these few pages. I would say that this novel centered around freewill. The aliens on Tralfamadore lived a life where they could see it all - the beginning, middle and end. They could see their mistakes, yet lacked freewill thus they could not change them. Therefore the serenity prayer comes into play throughout the novel...change the things we can, accept the things we can not and pocess the ability to know the difference.

Like most satires this novel lightly touches on many important lessons throughout the story, using humor to cover some of the most painful parts. For instance, the author uses the phrase "so it goes" after every death from cow to person to glass of water. He mentions death in this casual manner because, unfortunately, this is it how death relates to war. Using this same light writing style, Vonnegut also touches on the issues of peace, poverty, the American press and fate in general.

Overall I would say that this was a very thought-provoking read, more so even after closing the cover. I can see exactly why it is considered a classic. I feel the need to read it again and highly recommend it to all.

My Rating: 4 Stars

If I had to sum it up in one phrase: A classic that must be read, then pondered, and then read again.

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