Prisoner of war, optometrist, time-traveller – these are the life roles of Billy Pilgrim, hero of this miraculously moving, bitter and funny story of innocence faced with apocalypse. Slaughterhouse 5 is one of the world’s great anti-war books. Centring on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden in the Second World War, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know.
I took a ridiculously long time to get around to finishing this book. I’m talking years. I started reading it at least 4 years ago now, but lent it to someone halfway through and then never got back to it. I then picked it up a month ago but took weeks to finish reading it, even though I thought it was fantastic! I make zero sense sometimes. Curse university brain frying!
I really, really enjoyed this novel. I’m not hugely into American literature or modern classics- had a few bad experiences and gave up a bit. I do like sci-fi, but again, haven’t read a huge amount (compared to my friends, anyway). I was a bit worried about how I’d go with this, but I found it a really easy read and one that I fell into easily.
My only little qualm is that I wanted it to go a little further into situations. I also got annoyed by the time shifts at some points- I’d get really into a storyline and then BAM- time shift back to one I didn’t like as much!
I really liked Billy’s experiences on Tralfamadore. I’m a crazy person and totally kept mispronouncing the Tralfamadorians in my head, so the first time I heard it spoken out loud I was confused… I kept calling them “Tramalfadorians”. Oops. Regardless, their storyline was really interesting and I wish Vonnegut had spent a bit more time on them. I found their experience of time to be super interesting, as well as their fascination with Earth. They were a bit hilarious at times!
The anti-war sentiment in this novel is really thought provoking, especially considering it is a work of modern American fiction. I think that America has lost perspective on war and patriotism, something Vonnegut understood very well. I can’t imagine how horrific the bombing of Dresden was, but he handles it really well in this novel. Billy’s wartime experiences weren’t my favourite part of the book, which is unusual for me, but were really good anyway. I think I just wanted to get back to Tralfamadore!
The famous line, “So it goes.” just floored me at several points. There were times when it was used perfectly as a comedic device, but others where it just killed me. So it goes.
Overall, this was a fantastic book, but not really one of my all time favourites. I may come back to this another time, as I think it would benefit from a re-read, since there’s just so much going on in here! I’ll have to check out some more Vonnegut at some stage too. I really recommend this one to anyone who thinks it sounds up their alley… it’s so many things rolled into one that there’s sure to be something you’ll enjoy.