Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse five had been on my must read list for a few years, because it earned its well-deserved place in plenty of To-Read lists.

I read it last month and have been researching on and off before writing about this review/opinion, but then I realized anything that will be derived from what’s available already kills the purpose of me writing about it.

So I will write what I felt the way I told my non-reader-book-alergic baby siblings who liked what they heard.

Imagine this weird guy wearing azure blue toga (from a torn piece of a curtain) and silver boots (part of Cinderella’s costume) just casually navigating and surviving World War II on kinda auto-pilot.

He is a fatalist and makes no effort to survive and still does when everyone around him dies left and right no matter how hard they tried and how willing they were to live. He doesn’t care. He is mocked, beaten and humiliated throughout the war. Mentioned also as looking like “a broken kite” (when he was on fire, and “a filthy flamingo”

And after war, he goes out to marry daughter of a rich man and becomes an optometrist. Btw his father-in-law dies in a place crash and Billy was with him but guess what… you guessed it right.. this idiot survives!!!

Bizarre! I know. 

ALSO! He is time traveling! To a planet nobody knows about and there he is living his best life with a model.

On a serious note Slaughterhouse five is a great book. It’s a peculiarly bizarre tragedy, and an entertaining read. 

It’s an anti-war book that handles a brutal subject like war, seasoning it with science fiction and constantly basting with satire and black humor. I honestly felt bad for laughing here and there when I realized I was reading about war and its insurmountable devastation.

Slaughterhouse five aka The Children’s crusade was first published in 1969, written by Kurt Vonnegut who built the story from his own experience in war. At one point he was hiding in a Slaughterhouse numbered 5, hence the name…

The novel is told in non-linear style, bouncing between different phases and time lines, effortlessly. This is where the book deserves a standing ovation. 

The story of Billy, who believes he is unstuck in time (a belief birthed by PTSD), jumps between his childhood, his time as a prisoner of war, his post-war time were he became an optometrist and got married and all, his time at another planet named Tralfamadore, and his last phase of life. 

You follow Billy in all those times and places switching in between, without getting lost for a single moment and all of those happen under 200 pages max (depending on the copy you are reading).

Every death in the book is marked by the phrase “so it goes” like a tombstone and the story moves on like it’s an insignificant event, depicting how invaluable a life becomes during war.

Underlying theme of this book is there’s no free will, whatever is bound to happen will happen and we have no control over it.

It’s not the greatest book I have read so far. But it’s definitely a story I won’t forget. To me it’s a craft that I’m glad I could experience.

Sharing some quotes from the book:

“I am a Tralfamadorian, seeing all time as you might see a stretch of the Rocky Mountains. “All time is all time. It does not change. It does not lend itself to warnings or explanations. It simply is. Take it moment by moment, and you will find that we are all, as I’ve said before, bugs in amber.”

― Kurt Vonnegut

“How nice — to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive.”

― Kurt Vonnegut

“He is in a constant state of stage fright, he says, because he never knows what part of his life he is going to have to act in next”

― Kurt Vonnegut

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10 thoughts on “Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

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  1. I have been a Vonnegut devotee for many many years. Slaughterhouse Five was certainly the book that drew initial attention to him but there is lots of other stuff of his that deserves your attention. Read some more if you have the time.


  2. It is not unusual for us humans to create an avatar when having to endure extreme conditions. It starts already in our childhood when we try to escape into a fantasy land because we are feeling overwhelmed by an existential threat, even so, it might be only the case that we had just broken something. Many fairytales describe such escapes, like Cinderella. Prisoners also use those methods to endure their conditions.
    The exception of Kurt Vonnegut was he managed to record a very detailed account of what was going on in his mind during those horrid years of his incarceration.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. i had the similar thought when reading about Billy. the way he saw images in objects, his entire thought process throughout the book made me feel that his mind was disconnecting him from the horrid reality of war. A form of dissociation to escape reality mentally, if not physically.

      But thank for drawing my attension to the fact that whole book has been derived from Kurt Vonnegut’s experience and he could record and further give it a form of story, that’s rare. Mostly we want to forget our traumatizing times.


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