Slaughterhouse-Five is one of those books that has been on my TBR every since I had a TBR. It’s a classic, on nearly every “must-read” list I’ve come across. I’ve heard amazing things about it, and it is a favorite of many fellow bloggers I admire. And I finally (finally) read it.
(From Goodreads) War is inevitable, and it is absurd. The main theme of the book focuses on this. Billy Pilgrim is a prisoner-of-war at the hands of the Germans. He is captured and put in a disused slaughterhouse, which eventually proves to be a safe ‘shelter’ when his life is spared during the bombing of Dresden.
Billy is a fatalist. Barely out of childhood, his lack of enthusiasm for war and the eventual consequences of the war on his life is what makes up the story of Billy’s life. Vonnegut uses Billy to show that war is unnecessarily glorified, due to which people overlook the real tragedies and trauma that war actually brings with it.
Billy’s journey through time and space, his accounts of the bombing at Dresden, and his life as a prisoner of war, all highlight the central theme in the novel, war is nothing but another form of hell. Dark humour and irony is what makes Slaughterhouse-Five unique and a perfect example of creative accomplishment. It conveys the bitterness of war, while providing comic relief along with crucial understanding of the working of the human mind.
I wasn’t sure how I would feel about Slaughterhouse-Five. I’d only ever read two of Vonnegut’s works previously: God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, a short novel that I thought was just okay, and “Harrison Bergeron”, a short story that I really loved. But Slaughterhouse-Five really captured my attention, and I ended up really enjoying it! It turned out to be one of the strangest books I’ve ever read. It was completely different than what I was expecting (though, to be fair, I went into this without very much knowledge of what it was actually about). But I think it was better than anything I could have imagined.
I can’t really explain how Vonnegut portrays his characters, but it’s different and weird and I liked it. A lot. I think the monotone quality of the audiobook really helped reinforce the idea that these characters themselves were somewhat flat, but had interesting things happen to them. Normally, I hate flat characters, but Vonnegut made it work. And that feat made me appreciate him so much more as a writer.
I loved how the plot was completely unexpected. I was just starting to get into the historical fiction aspect, and then, suddenly, it was sci-fi. There were just some really fun twists. I enjoyed the nonlinear timeline, and felt that it made this story much more exciting. Vonnegut creatively combined a lot of elements I typically don’t like, and managed to create a novel that feels like art.
Overall, I thought Slaughterhouse-Five was a great book, and I am glad to have finally read it.
★★★★☆ – Slaughterhouse-Five is a solid four-star read in my book. It’s not a favorite, but I definitely agree that it’s a classic, and one I think almost everyone should read at some point. It feels like what literature should be, and I really enjoyed it.
If you’ve read anything by Kurt Vonnegut, let me know in the comments what I should read next!
If you’re interested in reading Slaughterhouse-Five, you can pick up a copy on Amazon (it’s also free as part of Kindle Unlimited, if you subscribe).
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose Slaughterhouse-Five as one of your two free books. (There are several different versions; I recommend the one read by James Franco, because I really enjoyed it.)