Yes it’s an occasionally humorous reflection on the horrors of war and yes it’s a clever enough look at life and history and expectations and blah blah but… I did not enjoy this book in the slightest. I did not even really appreciate it much for what it was doing and saying.
If the main point, or one of, is to communicate the horror of war, I guess it does it well enough. But I don’t feel that it’s particularly well done and there are a few bits that justify Mary’s early concern about making war notseem as awful as it really was. I don’t think anyone would come away thinking that war is a lark, but still… it really didn’t work for me. I think there are other books that do it better and without being quite so annoying.
The main problem for me is Billy himself. As much as I am a pacifist I find Billy’s acceptance of everything that happens to him, his absolute passivity, incredibly frustrating and annoying and, frankly, boring. As a fictional character: yes, I know that there are things in my actual life that are just going to happen and I can’t do anything about that, so I like reading about people who have a go at shaking life to try and make a difference. As a reflection on exactly that issue of the human condition: even we, in real life, don’t generally just here, passive. At least we talk or we rage or we complain or we act as though maybe there’s a modicum of free will involved. Billy – the man who just lands in places and does nothing (that we see – clearly he got through optom school but that’s never discussed) but still manages to have good stuff and makes no decision ARGH. Not a character who was ever, ever going to work for me.
And then there’s the women. Yeh yeh it was written ages ago and I don’t care. The daughter, the wife, the girlfriend – nags and obese and existing for sex (only the last two thankfully) and I felt like the hobo who died on the train almost had more humanity than the daughter and the girlfriend, especially.
If I read the phrase “So it goes” one more time I may physically react. Passivity that makes no attempt at improvement or alteration and even movement? No thanks.