The Brain in the Jar's Reviews > Bluebeard

Bluebeard by Kurt Vonnegut
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Apr 02, 2009

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Recommended for: People who like characters more than plot, Vonnegut fans.

Most of the time, when you hear about Vonnegut, you hear about Slaughterhouse-Five. You will also hear about Cat's Cradle or Breakfast Of Champions. Yet, here I am and the first Vonnegut book I reviewe is Bluebeard, which is considered one of his lesser novels. I didn't even choose Mother Night or The Sirens Of Titan. Why? The answer is simple: I read Slaughterhouse long time ago and just finished Bluebeard. Don't worry. I promise more Vonnegut. Someday.

So Bluebeard is a novel about an Armenian painter called Rabo Karabekian (Even after finishing the novel I had problems with his last name). The novel is written as an autobiography. In fact, it's pretty much an autobiography of a fictional character. However, the writing style and time-jumping turn Bluebeard into a long rambling, even worse than almighty The Catcher In The Rye.

There's basically a few things that are common between Slaughterhouse and Bluebeard. They both lack a certain timeline for the events, they are both close to a genocide (the Armenian genocide this time) and both got the great voice and humor of Mr. Vonnegut. However, this is where it ends. The first and main reason is that Slaughterhouse is insane, makes no sense and takes you to an adventure. Bluebeard, on the other hand, is calmer and relaxed. While Rabo basically tells you chunks and chunks of the story, seperated so you basically stopped trying to follow, he doesn't have the angry tone Holden got. However, he is still sharp. He even fantasizes about what will happen if his name gets into the dictionary. It was definitely one of the better jokes.

If I'm already talking Rabo, than I have to resort to mentioning Catcher again. That's because both Holden and Rabo turn themselves into the center of their novels. Rabo is an excellent character. Not necessarily an angry and souring antihero but not some guy with extreme talents (Actually, there's a guy here who got extreme talents. He commits suicide and you know it pretty early). Rabo feels like a simple, yet full character. A character with a background that doesn't try to be too bombastic and dramatic. Aside from that, Rabo joins many fabulous characters who have one common quality: They're lonely, either by choice or not. Rabo is more of a hermit by choice. An old man who decided to step back and rest, yet without too much contempt or something. A great character which I'll remember for a long time.

There isn't a whole lot of bad things to say about Bluebeard. It's an excellent study of a character, and definitely got a deeper protagonist than a plot. Yet, Bluebeard doesn't pack the punch Slaughterhouse packed, but that's it. If you dig deeper, you could see the novel drags a bit there and there. But most of the time, it's good, but not good enough.

So why read this novel? If you like characters and studying them. In all honesty, Bluebeard wasn't that much of a satire and doesn't feel like it has something to say. It doesn't feel like somebody got bored and wrote random chunks of plot. It's not made of a bunch of stories sticked together. It's simple a character study. As if Rabo could appear in a different novel with a serious plot, and this book would serve as a "side book" to understand him better (Actually, he appeared in Breakfast Of Champions or so I heard. But he wasn't a main hero or something). In the end, Bluebeard worths reading and far from a waste of time. A good book to add to your library. But read Slaughterhouse first, please
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