Review: Slaughterhouse Five

“The most important thing I learned on Tralfamadore was that when a person dies he only appears to die. He is still very much alive in the past, so it is silly for people to cry at his funeral.” – Billy Pilgrim, Slaughterhouse Five

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Slaughterhouse Five

I finished Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut today, which I picked up on Neil’s recommendation and also Mike’s since it was his copy that I borrowed.(Borrowing books I’m reading is something I haven’t done since middle school. It is much less costly.) The edition was utterly gorgeous. I’d love to get a set of his work with that design scheme. I can’t believe it took me this look to delve into the complex and wonderful world of Vonnegut. Today seemed a particularly apt day for finishing this particular novel.

It has been a difficult day. My fifteen-year-old puppy had to be put down. I’ve seen this day coming for a while, but it didn’t make it any less sad. It just softened the blow. I’ve already cried my tears over Sammy long before when I knew he was starting to slow down. I miss him already, but I’ve made my peace with the fact that he’s lived a long and, I hope, happy life (God knows he was spoiled. He was after all the baby) .

The lessons Billy Pilgrim learns from the Tralfamadorians are a beautiful sentiment about life and death and time. If people are constantly existing in various moments, then nothing and no one is ever truly lost. They’re just in a bad way in that particular instant.

I went into Slaughterhouse Five not at all knowing what I was about to read. It’s what I want to refer to as highbrow science fiction. It explores themes of space aliens and time travel, but also the wreck, ruin, and devastation caused by World War II and the lives led after its cessation. It takes place in a world both dreamy and stark in its doses of reality. The juxtaposition of the fantastic and the face of war creates a unique, almost unsettling landscape that simultaneously draws the reader in.

The novel prevents a fatalist view, but also some comforting undertones. Loss and destruction on the one hand, but continuity and endurance on the other. The terrible events will occur, but so will the good, even if it’s all unavoidable. If we can concentrate on the good moments, it makes all the bad endurable, no matter where we are in our timeline. So even though we lose, we gain, because we still have our memories.

Excellent novel. I very much look forward to reading more of Vonnegut’s work. Until next time. xx

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