Book Review 11: Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut

I have always loved reading ever since my childhood. However, with my busy everyday routine the only time that I can allocate for reading are the minutes before I go to sleep and during the weekends. Sundays are my favourite day for reading because the whole atmosphere of the day presupposes long hours of reading on the sofa in my living room. This helps me relax and prepare mentally before the new week.

This Sunday I am sharing my thoughts of the last book that I read – Hocus Pocus by Kurt Vonnegut. I fell in love with Vonnegut’s style a few years ago when I first read Slaughterhouse Five (you can read a detailed review here). It is definitely not everybody’s cup of tea because his style is so much different than everything else that is on the market. 

Vonnegut’s unique touch to some of the most important historical events is what makes him stand out. The main topic of Hocus Pocus is the Vietnam War and how it has affected not only the protagonist – the war veteran 
Eugene Debs Hartke – but also the whole American society and its reaction towards the war veterans. However, if you expect a linear plot that will develop the story logically bit by bit, you will not find it with Vonnegut. The whole story is told in scraps of memory by the protagonist – each page brings something new (often quite extraordinary and unimaginable) to the bigger picture and the story of Eugene unfolds without you even noticing it.

Speaking of the extraordinary character of the story, Vonnegut is a true master of bringing new perspectives and plot twists to his books.
Hocus Pocus is the story of Eugene Debs Hartke, a Vietnam veteran, who after leaving the Army became a teacher at a private school and then at a prison. After a prison break, he is mistaken for one of the ring leaders and ends up awaiting trial, dying of tuberculosis, contemplating his life and trying to count the number of women he has slept with. And even though the book begins with the most important question (namely the number of women Eugene has slept with), we do not get a definite answer by the end of the book. Instead, Vonnegut makes us solve a complex mathematical problem taking into consideration almost every single number he has stated in the novel in order to find out what is the final amount of women.

The unique combination of important historical events, biting satire, extraordinary plot twists, and a knowledgeable take on the contemporary life and culture is what made me fall in love with Vonnegut’s art and what keeps me getting back to him.

Have you ever read anything by Kurt Vonnegut? Let me know in the comments.



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