Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Source: Bought on Amazon
Excerpt from Goodreads:
Mother Night is a daring challenge to our moral sense. American Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a spy during World War II, is now on trial in Israel as a Nazi war criminal. But is he really guilty? In this brilliant book rife with true gallows humor, Vonnegut turns black and white into a chilling shade of gray with a verdict that will haunt us all.
I read this book for my Literature and War class.
I’ve never read any of Kurt Vonnegut’s other works but after this book I’m sure I will. After reading the description on the back, it was hard to imagine how an author could include humor in a situation where an American spy ends up in an Israeli prison, but Kurt Vonnegut had me laughing out loud. It was one of those laughs were you weren’t sure if it was appropriate or politically correct, but it was so darn funny you just couldn’t help it.
Howard W. Campbell, our main character, was an American spy posing as a German Nazi. Throughout the book we get a lot of insight about what he did as a Nazi and why he was so effective. Howard really struggles with comprehending whether he was acting as an American or if he really had crossed the line into Nazi territory. This is where the ‘chilling shade of gray’ phrase comes from.
Howard discusses his life before, during, and after the war up to the present time. The chapters weave together through the past and the present in such a fluid way, it was unlike anything I’ve ever read before. There are twists and turns I honestly did NOT see coming which kept the book exciting and turned it into a really fast read.
I may have a weird or awkward sense of humor because I found most of this book hilarious. I’m not sure if anyone would agree with me so I’ve been trying to justify why I found it so funny and my conclusion is this: the Nazi view is so unlike my own, and their ideals are so ridiculous, I just couldn’t help but laugh.
Don’t get the wrong idea though, this book did have its funny parts, but the war and the death is still a very present aspect. From Howard’s point of view we see the deaths of Jews and Germans, something that to my knowledge hasn’t been explored before in the same book. On one page you’re learning about Howard’s experience in a Jewish camp and in the next you’re hearing about how a German he knew is killed. It was a wild experience to have these two events relayed so closely together and it puts this war into a new perspective.
For whatever reason I loved this book. I was shocked by the ending, but I know I’ll read it again. I’m definitely going to look into more of Vonnegut’s work and I can’t believe I haven’t read more of him already!
I also wanted to mention that the drawings on the front and back cover were made by Kurt Vonnegut, which I think is super cool! I also really enjoyed the Introduction and the Editor’s Note and the names of the chapters. I think I just really like Kurt Vonnegut.
Anyways, I’d recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in WWII, or an interest in spies. This book was a super fast read, I think it only took me five or so hours.