Book Review – Slaughterhouse Five

The most recent book I finished on Audible was Kurt Vonnegut’s famous Slaughterhouse Five –narrated by James Franco! I didn’t know what to expect going into it at all. I’d never read any of his books, and didn’t know anything beforehand about this one, except that both author and novel are widely acclaimed. I didn’t even know it would be a war novel.

My imagination ran wild, and I assumed the book would be about five different people who did really violent things. I thought the narrator would be the first, and Billy Pilgrim the second.

As it turned out, Kurt himself is the narrator, and Billy Pilgrim is the main protagonist.

And, despite being a novel about a firebombing massacre during World War II, it wasn’t very violent.

I was pleasantly surprised by how almost light hearted the book was. It did cover a completely macabre and heavy subject –war, the human tendency to kill one another, human fatality during war –but was handled with a delightfully twisted sense of humor.

As soon as the Tralfamadorians were described I imagined them perfectly. I must have seen images of these little aliens somewhere before, because when I Googled them later to see if I was picturing them correctly, I found I was spot on. As weird as they were in a WWII novel, they felt perfectly in place.

I was also made finally aware of the meaning of the famous phrase from the book, “So it goes.”

Very, very aware. It must have been said a hundred times (every time something –even lice –died).

Still, I looked up reviews to see what others said about the book, and was shocked to see people critiquing it and complaining about the overuse of “so it goes.”

For me, this was a necessary and effective style choice. Not everything that breaks the fundamental rules of writing needs to be eradicated. Kurt Vonnegut was certainly aware he wrote this phrase several times.

In that respect I learned something valuable from the book:

You shouldn’t always listen to other’s advice.

Something your average critic says is stupid can end up being the pièce de résistance of your work.

Sometimes, you have to kill your darlings.

Other times, you must defend them from the ones who cannot understand them.

Anyway, back to the novel: I won’t presume to critique the work of this classic author. For the most part, I enjoyed it, even if there was a surprising lack of action considering the subject matter.

That isn’t to say it’s not interesting, or that nothing was going on. A war was raging, and the protagonist was time traveling. It simply didn’t feel like much due to the matter-of-fact tone used throughout.

I recommend this book to anyone.

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