35. Slaughterhouse 5: Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse 5

I have had this book on my shelves for an age, having been given it as part of a set of modern classics when my Grandma was getting rid of a load of books years ago. I picked it up today as it was short and I had put in on my new “Classics Club” list, not realising that I would sit down and read it all in one go!

Slaughterhouse Five is the story of Billy Pilgrim, a young and unenthusiastic American soldier captured by the Germans and later taken to Dresden for forced labour just before it was bombed into oblivion by the Allies, which he experiences. We find out about the rest of his life, mostly his life after the war, in a haphazard fashion through episodes of time-travelling when he slips into his older self in a mental hospital after suffering a breakdown following his return home, aspects of his life with his wife and children, and eventually at his own death. We are also told about the period of his life when he was abducted by aliens who reveal to him that everything exists, has always existed and will always continue to exist but can not be comprehended by Earthling’s minds. Like his despairing daughter, the reader is sceptical about his other-worldly experiences, especially when we learn that he became an avid reader of a local, largely unkown science fiction writer whilst in hospital.

Slaughterhouse Five is an intriguing mix of war story and sci-fi. Its very easy to read and is both funny and tragic in places. It deals very matter of factly about death, following each of the numerous demises of characters both known and unknown with a simple “So it goes”.

I liked it, but didn’t love it. Its inventiveness boosts its rating to…

4 stars

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