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Slaughterhouse Five - Book Review

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by Jeni Wilson (subscribe)
Teacher educator and author of many teacher reference books. Amused by random ideas and loves random acts of kindness. Enjoys writing humour...seriously!Please see my Instagram: wilsonjeni
Published January 13th 2014
Unpredictable, Tragic And Absolutely Hilarious
The title itself is daunting, a most unlikely selection, but this book is unforgettable. Slaughterhouse Five is the most unique and unpredictable book I have ever read. I wish I had an ounce of Kurt Vonnegut's literary talent.

war, antiwar, fantasy, book review, science fiction, Kurk Vonnegut, humour, satire, humanity, prisoners of war


Slaughterhouse Five relentlessly tackles atrocities of war with such clarity that it becomes painfully absurd and embarrassing for all mankind. Yet, in the stroke of a masterful pen, Vonnegut delves into the horrific impact of war in a hilarious way. This is a gutsy, timeless anti-war book that challenges people's moral apathy.

Vonnegut has very cleverly orchestrated this ruthless examination that the reader may not choose if this were not fiction, albeit science fiction/fantasy. Slaughterhouse Five forces the reader to think about the impossible complexities and fruitlessness of war. He does this through the simple interpretation of the main character, Billy (an ex soldier and American prisoner of war), who drifts in and out of reality, across time and the universe.

As unlikely as it sounds Billy's version is perfectly logical and this casts doubt on others more respected and sane than Billy. It renders all wars completely incomprehensible. Vonnegut constantly underlines the fact that there is really nothing intelligent to say about the massacre…"so it goes."

It seems almost impossible that the reader could be brought to the brink of tears and laughter in the one sentence. This is one of the book's curious dichotomies. But that's not all - it rightfully makes the reader feels guilty for finding humour in such a serious topic that is so largely neglected.

Vonnegut uses his vivid imagination to create a text that is now a worldwide classic. The story centres on the firebombing of Dresden. Billy Pilgrim makes you wonder how some people can survive through so many misfortunes and tragedies. It is embarrassingly uncomfortable to read about the responses of others to Billy's plights.

Repetitively mocked, embarrassed and made to feel totally incompetent, Billy is vulnerable and eager to behave decently when others do not. He feels an absolute listless failure and would willingly sacrifice his life. Somehow he manages to avoid death despite it being the preferred option.

This is not a feel good book. Slaughterhouse Five book was written in a time when war was glorified. Vonnegut has challenged everyone to consider if war is indeed inevitable. He says he was advised to write an anti- glacier book instead of an anti-war book - wars, as easy to stop as glaciers.

The writing is lyrical; the author cleverly uses a spiralling approach, revisiting important messages with apparently meaningless, invented words and ambiguous phrases. 'Poo-tee-weet.' By revisiting terms and phrases he highlights the meaninglessness, hopelessness and gravity of the situation. People live throughout time as if everything is perfect, as if nobody was ever hurt, believing lies, or at the very least ignoring truths and untruths. Perhaps this is the only way to subside the pain of war. To keep ghastly secrets ... Who does that protect? he asks…"And so on."

This is a must read for all mature readers, the subtleties and poignancy might be lost on less experienced readers.

As the book draws to a close, despite the many unanswerable questions it raises about war and humanity, Billy reassures us that it's alright …"everything is alright and everyone has to do exactly what he does… So it goes."

How can anyone make sense of war? Who wants to? To start the intellectual dissection will inevitably lead to a maze of heartache but that's not the problem…. the trouble is we never really do ..."Poo-tee-weet….and so on!"
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Why? A classic anti-war text
Your Comment
This is a stunning book. Must read it again.
by Madison (score: 0|4) 1792 days ago
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