Cecily's book reviews

In general I've written reviews of every book I've read since I joined GoodReads (RIP) in May 08, along with one or two I read prior to that. More recent reviews tend to be longer (sometimes a tad too long?). I always carry a book, though I don't get as much time as I'd like to get engrossed - life is busy, but in a good way. Too many of my favourite authors died without writing enough! Apart from reading, and writing about reading, I enjoy Scrabble, good restaurants, woodland, and attending the theatre.

Slaughterhouse Five or the Children's Crusade

Slaughterhouse Five or the Children's Crusade - Kurt Vonnegut A strange and intriguing book that I found very hard to rate: a mixture of wartime memoir and sci fi - occasionally harrowing, sometimes funny and other times thought-provoking.

It is the episodic story of Billy Pilgrim, a small town American boy, who is a POW in the second world war, later becomes a successful optometrist and who occasionally and accidentally travels in time to other periods of his life, so he has "memories of the future". Oh, he also gets abducted by aliens, along with some furniture. "So it goes." (That is the catchphrase of the book, and I found rather annoying after the umpteenth time. It's used, apparently deliberately, in Philip K Dick's "Ubik" (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/580647608), which I assumed was a nod to Vonnegut, until I discovered both were published in the same year)

Spoons are mentioned oddly often, as a description of how people lie (lovers or fallen soldiers). Then, near the end, actual spoons are briefly important. I have no idea whether this is significant.

It starts with an old man reminiscing about his life. He is asked about the point of writing an anti-war book, "Why don't you write an anti-glacier book instead?" After that, it jumps about, much as Billy does, "Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time... he is in a constant state of stage fright".

The most thought-provoking bits for me were Billy's mother who tried "to construct a life that makes sense from things she found in gift shops", the bathos with which some war events were described (e.g. being executed for stealing a teapot) and the Tralfamadorian's multi-dimensional and multi-sexual world. For instance, they have five sexes, but their differences were in the fourth dimension and they couldn't imagine how time looks to Billy (they also told him that seven sexes were essential for human reproduction!). A main message is surprisingly positive: if we could only see or feel the fourth dimension, we would realise that "when a person dies he only appears to die. He is very much alive in the past".

It has strong links with several other books: as it's Vonnegut, the "fictitious" sci fi writer, Kilgore Trout, gets several mentions; the mode of time travel clearly influenced Niffenegger's "The Time Traveler's Wife" (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/23327825) and when he watches a WW2 film in reverse, it's very like Amis's "Time's Arrow" (http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/207770668). It also left me wanting to read a Tralfamadorian book with its simultaneous threads, "no beginning, no middle, no end... What we love in our books are the depths of many marvellous moments seen all at one time", which is surely what Vonnegut was trying to create for mere human readers.

Currently reading

The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy
Sebastian Peake, China MiƩville, Mervyn Peake
Mervyn Peake