Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death

By: Kurt Vonnegut
1969
Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5

Slaughterhouse-Five book cover

Of course, Slaughterhouse-Five is a classic. Even if you haven’t read it, odds are you’ve heard of it.

And it’s a classic for a reason. Vonnegut is a genius, and this book is brilliant.

It can be read a million different ways. Everybody gets something different out of it. This is the second time I’ve read this book, and it’s crazy how different it felt from the first time.

If you don’t pay attention, this book is almost a light read. It can be really confusing if you don’t follow the nonchronological style, but Billy Pilgrim’s story is told in such a way that you almost don’t realize how horrible everything is unless you really listen.

One of the classic, oft-repeated lines in this book, “So it goes,” is a perfect example of this. Vonnegut inserts this little phrase after anyone (or really anything) dies. To me, this exemplifies Pilgrim’s disconnection from the world. Death is just something that happens, and so it goes.

Pilgrim can come across as a crazy, cooky, almost funny character. He believes he’s been abducted by aliens and he travels through time frequently.

But Pilgrim’s not really funny. He’s really, really sad.

He’s unable to cope. He creates another world, because he doesn’t understand the world he lives in.

And while everything is told almost matter-of-factly, it’s clear that the horrific events of Billy Pilgrim’s life don’t go by unnoticed, and his quirks and insanity stem directly from his experiences in World War II.

I didn’t give this book a five, not because it’s not well-written, not because it’s not something everyone should read, but because I reserve fives for my favorites, for books that I can pick up at any time, books that I want to cuddle up with on a cold night.

Slaughterhouse-Five is not one of those books.

Slaughterhouse-Five will not make you feel good. About anything. It’s not something you can read and forget about if you really take the time to understand it. And it’s not supposed to be.

So yes. Read it. Tell me what you think.

But make sure you’re ready to read it. Make sure you’re going to pay attention, to make the connections, to feel when Billy can’t seem to. Because this book asks some hard questions, so you better be prepared to hear them.

 

*****

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If you liked Slaughterhouse-Five, check out these books:

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

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Coming up:

The Complete Adventures of Charlie and Mr. Willy Wonka by Roald Dahl

Eva Luna by Isabel Allende

Isle of Dreams by Elizabeth Dawson

The Known World by Edward P. Jones

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

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