I previously rated the Kurt Vonnegut nonfiction work, Wampeters, Foma & Granfalloons (Opinions), which I read last year. I actually read a lot of Kurt Vonnegut’s work last year. It was kind of random, actually. I happened to borrow one of Eric’s Kurt Vonnegut novels early in the year (I think it was the third book I read in my failed 50 book challenge). I was regularly taking books with me to work to read during my lunch break, and that particular book sparked a conversation with one of the managers who happened to adore Vonnegut. She offered to loan me a bunch of her books, and I took her up on that. I think I ended up reading a total of 8 or 9 of his books last year, so there will definitely be more reviews of Vonnegut’s work in future Saturday Book Club posts.
Image courtesy of wikipedia.org.
Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut
Mother Night is the story of Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a writer and (supposed) former American spy posing as a Nazi during World War II. He is about to go to trial in Israel as a Nazi war criminal, and the book is written from Campbell’s point of view as he remembers the events that led him to an Israeli prison.
I’m definitely not a history buff (that would be my mom), but I’ve always thought that World War II was fascinating … Mostly because the events were at once heartbreaking and terrifying. I don’t think anyone will ever be able to truly understand how or why such atrocities occurred, but Vonnegut does a great job of posing some interesting ideas regarding those evils.
Take this example:
“There are plenty of good reasons for fighting,” I said, “but no good reason ever to hate without reservation, to imagine that God Almighty Himself hates with you, too. Where’s evil? It’s that large part of every man that wants to hate without limit, that wants to hate with God on its side.” p. 251
I think that’s a very interesting quote, mostly because it holds true not only for the horrors of World War II, but also for so many other things. This could be applied to racists, homophobes, etc.
But back to the book. I really enjoyed this novel. I think Vonnegut did a great job in maintaining his humor throughout, especially since this subject matter could have been incredibly bleak. (Not that I don’t enjoy bleak.) I would recommend this book to others, but I would point out that although there are a lot of World War II references, this is not a “historical fiction” type of book. It’s the way things were in the life of one man, an unreliable narrator (he mentions several times that he’s a great liar), who may or may not have been an American spy and/or a Nazi … It’s a reflection on the bad (and the good) he did during the war and after.
I would give Mother Night FOUR STARS. I really liked this book, but I wouldn’t say I loved it. There’s really no reason why I didn’t love it … It’s just how I felt upon completing it. I would read this again in the future, though. I think this would be particularly interesting to reread since Campbell is such an unreliable narrator … It could be fun to see if there are any holes in his story. I tried to keep my eyes peeled during the first read, but I’m sure there are subtle things that might be picked up on a second or third read.