One of the very best anti-war novels ever written
Prisoner of war, optometrist, time-traveller - these are the life roles of Billy Pilgrim, hero of this miraculously moving, bitter and funny story of innocence faced with apocalypse. Slaughterhouse 5 is one of the world's great anti-war books.
Centring on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden in the Second World War, Billy Pilgrim's odyssey through time reflects the journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know.
About the Author
Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis in 1922 and studied biochemistry at Cornell University. During WWII, as a prisoner of war in Germany, he witnessed the destruction of Dresden by Allied bombers, an experience which inspired his novel Slaughterhouse 5.
In this classic novel that still resonates today, Vonnegut introduces us to the hapless Billy Pilgrim, stuck in the misery of the Second World War, a tragi-comic hero belittled and abused by his soldier colleagues as they retreat behind enemy lines. Unarmed, in a daze of misery, hunger and exhaustion, Billy stumbles alongside the obnoxious Roland Weary as he relates his knowledge of torture methods. Just as it seems that Billy's ordeal can get no worse, he is captured by the Germans and force-marched to a prison camp. It is at this point that his brain decides to take a holiday and he becomes Billy Pilgrim, time traveller. As the theatre of war enacts its ghastly tableaux against a backdrop of brutality and death, Billy tumbles in and out of his life, as it was, as it is, as it will be. Billy sees himself as a child, a newly wed on honeymoon, the only survivor of a plane crash, and a zoological specimen on the planet Tralfamadore. War-time Billy is taken to Dresden, there to work as a POW, sleeping in 'Slaughterhouse 5' in a city unaware of its soon-to-be-notorious fate. Already unhinged by the diabolical acts of cruelty that mankind seems capable of inflicting on itself, he is witness to the destruction of Dresden before being sent home to resume life as normal. Billy continues to stumble through an existence he doesn't seem to want or enjoy, until the moment comes when he tell the world that death is merely another dimension - the aliens who kidnapped him have told him so. Vonnegut's deadly humour and caustic observations on a war he himself participated in reveal its lunacy, as humans become units of cruelty, driven only by the will to survive. Billy Pilgrim, helpless in a world he does not understand, is a powerful protagonist in this masterpiece of American writing. (Kirkus UK)
Audience: Tertiary; University or College
For Ages: 14 - 18 years old
For Grades: 10 - 12
Number Of Pages: 192
Published: June 1991
Publisher: Random House
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 20.1 x 12.8 x 1.4
Weight (kg): 0.15