Saturday, March 28, 2009

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut -- A Book Review

So it goes.

The first time I tried to read this book I couldn’t give it the proper attention. It was at a busy time and I could only read a few pages here and there and it made no sense reading it like that. That was years ago and now I’ve been able to give it the proper attention it deserves. The story is about a WWII Veteran, Billy Pilgrim, who witnessed the bombing of Dresden, Germany. Today the death toll is estimated to be about 25,000 people, when Vonnegut wrote the book the death toll was estimated much higher. Kurt Vonnegut was a POW in Dresden at the time of the bombings and this story is his experience there, but told through a fictional character that is not himself.

Billy Pilgrim is the main character and we hear is story through a jumble of events. One minute he’s in war the next curled up next to his wife years after the war. He talks of time traveling and of how he was abducted by aliens. He is able to tell in great detail of his experience with these other life forms. The reason it is called time traveling is because he not only has flash backs he also experiences flash forwards. Anytime death is mentioned it is followed by the saying “So it goes.” It is how the author changes the subject and uses it as comic relief. According to wikipedia it appears 116 times. Once the POW’s arrived in Dresden they are imprisoned in an unused slaughterhouse…Slaughterhouse-Five. It’s also there that they take shelter from the bombings.


  1. I have to say this is one of the best books written in the 20th century. I don’t even know if I can explain in words why. You just have to read it. It’s actually a pretty quick read…I couldn’t put it down.

    It’s one of those novels that makes you question the governments decisions when it comes to war. Was Dresden really necessary? It’s still a topic that is debated today.

    The book is an anti-war book, but the bomings of Dresden are not the climax of the book. When a POW is put in front of a firing squad for petty theft. With so much destruction around them they take the time out to punish ONE man. It’s pointing out how illogical that is.

    I hate thinking of all the horrors of war in some ways I would like to be a Tralfamadorian (Billy’s alien abductors) and ignore war altogether. I can’t ignore war as today we are once again at war.

    I realize that my review seems a bit jumbled and all over the place. That’s also how Slaughterhouse-Five reads and as I sit and think about it my mind just jumps from one thing to another.

    Other anti-war books I’ve read are War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges. I even got to meet the author when he gave a talk on my college campus. It’s another moving read about his war experience as a war correspondent. If you want

  2. I just passed this book at the book store and was wondering about it!


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