When I was in high school, I discovered a used book store that contained all sorts of literary treasures. Many of these came from college students looking to sell back their required reading from their English classes, and so I stumbled upon Kurt Vonnegut. Of all his books that I managed to read, Slaughterhouse Five was my favorite. Recently I had the opportunity to read it again.
Slaughterhouse Five is a novel based on Vonnegut’s own experiences as an American soldier fighting in Europe during World War II. He was captured at the Battle of the Bulge and held prisoner in Dresden, following which, he observed first-hand the notorious fire-bombing by the allied forces. A darkly satirical book, the author avoids direct pain through humor and explanation by taking his reader through a nonsensical story line. For instance, when his character Billy Pilgrim experiences PTSD, he describes is as being “unstuck in time,” and then explains it as Pilgrim being kidnapped by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore.
Unlike many postmodern authors, Vonnegut is immensely readable, but that does not necessarily make his works likable by the masses. As I’ve gotten older, I am far more discerning in the books I like to read, and modern American is definitely not my genre. I prefer more straightforward, narrative works, although I do appreciate the uniqueness of Vonnegut’s approach. He is clearly a gifted writer and Slaughterhouse Five is genius for it’s unique approach to the horrors of war. But I can’t honestly say that I loved it.
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1970
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