I must say that I have been putting this review off every single day. That’s not because I didn’t like the book. That is not the reason in the slightest. The reason why I am struggling to write out my feelings about it is because I really enjoyed it and there is just so much to discuss. And, quite frankly I find it really hard to fully put into words what this book meant for me and how it affected me.
The book is meant to be like a semi-biography of the Kurt Vonnegut’s own life and experiences in the Second World War, with a strong emphasis on the events that occurred in Dresden in the Second World War. He gives the main character the name Billy Pilgrim, and we follow him through his experiences as a prisoner of war, optometrist, as well as time traveller. Not your typical anti-war book I must admit.
It was nothing like I expected it to be. The anti-war message is quite obvious, it’s a very short book as well so I didn’t expect it to go into many details which is exactly what we got. We just got pieces of his life and memory as the narrator would jump from the present, to the past and then into the future. In one instance we with Billy in his prison cell in Dresden, and the next we are billions of light-years away on a completely different planet with aliens. I know that you are thinking, is he on drugs? The answer is no, and once you read the book you will understand it’s significance.
This book is filled with powerful themes, rich motifs and allusions. He refers to William Blake and Fyodor Dostoevsky along with many other references that I probably didn’t get. The themes he touched upon are quite controversial as well; the destructiveness of war, the illusion of free will, the comparison of soldiers to children and the emptiness of wealth just to name a few. There is also the phrase that he uses after mentioning any sort of death, “so it goes”. He explains why he does it early on in the novel so I don’t want to spoil it, but it puts a very interesting understanding of death.
Verdict: Wonderful anti-war book that is sure to surprise you with the writing style that should be read carefully. It’s one of those books that you can repeatedly read and still manage to find hidden gems.