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Sunday, 28 August 2011

Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut, jr.

I had no idea what Slaughterhouse 5 was about before I started reading it. All I knew was that it was on pretty much every single recommended book list I could find. Having never read any of Vonnegut's work before, I had no preconception of his work, or his writing style.

Let me just say that the work surprised me. I normally read science fiction and fantasy, but this is a work written in an entirely different way to which I am accustomed. The book has layers; some unravel quite easily, and some evade notice until either absolutely necessary, or until after you've read the book and put some thought into it. Hopefully, without giving too much away, I will attempt to elaborate.

The story begins with a writer's account of how he wrote this story. Already, it's a story about a story, which isn't hard to follow, but interesting in itself. Then, the "real" story begins, the focus of both your reading and the speaker's work. This story follows the life of one Billy Pilgrim, who starts off as a sub-par individual, a person who had me asking and thinking, "Why is this the main character? He doesn't seem worthy of my interest." As the story progresses, the time-line is all over the place. Sometimes you are looking at Billy's present, sometimes his present is in your past, as in you've read about that part but not from this current perspective, sometimes he alludes to future events which you've read, and sometimes he foreshadows other events. As this continues, and the threads of his life begin to weave together, I started to realize what made Billy seem so odd in the first place. I started to understand him, and thus had to rescind my earlier thoughts concerning his importance.

In addition to all this, Slaughterhouse 5 is a story of war and insanity. One of the main focuses of this story is the bombing of Dresden, Germany, in WWII, controversially seen as a tragic, unnecessary war crime by many. I won't go too far into this, but I will say that this event, very crucial in Slaughterhouse 5, adds to the calamity, and seemingly inevitable tragedy of humanity.

I feel as if my thoughts on this book are still forming, which is not only a good thing in and of itself, as I love books that stick with me and make me think, but this is also symbolic of the book itself that has more in common with a tapestry than the duvet covers of most "literature".

So it goes.

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