Review: The Complete Maus (Art Spiegelman)

The Deets:
Reading Level: YA (for content)
Pages: 296
Publisher: October 1st 2003 by Penguin Books
ISBN: 9780141014081
Type: Graphic Novel
Source: Library book

The Complete Maus

Combined for the first time here are Maus I: A Survivor's Tale and Maus II - the complete story of Vladek Spiegelman and his wife, living and surviving in Hitler's Europe. By addressing the horror of the Holocaust through cartoons, the author captures the everyday reality of fear and is able to explore the guilt, relief and extraordinary sensation of survival - and how the children of survivors are in their own way affected by the trials of their parents. A contemporary classic of immeasurable significance.

This was different from what I expected. I wasn't sure what I would be reading when I started this book. I knew Maus was a Holocaust story, but I didn't know what type of story it would be. Calling it a "contemporary classic of immeasurable significance" is an understatement. I think powerful is a better adjective. Heartbreaking. Captivating..... those would work too.

The people in the book were depicted as various types of animals which I was both disturbed by and thankful for. I found it very interesting that the author chose to depict his "characters" as animals. The dehumanization aspect was not lost on me-- afterall, isn't that what Hitler and the Nazis did to the Jews?

Given the subject matter, I'm not sure how I would have taken to this book if it had the detail that most graphic novels are known for.  The drawings lacked facial expression and some detail, but the point was still made. I still cried when a baby mouse's head was smashed against it because I knew what the mouse represented.

One thing that I did find bothersome was the constant switching between the present and past. I could see it being confusing for some people. However, I thought it was important to show how the past events shaped the father into the person that he became as a survivor. It wasn't choppy per se, but some type of textual feature to indicate that the present was occuring would have been better I think.

Overall, given that this is such hard content to work with, I think the author did a nice job of sharing his father’s horrifying experience in a tasteful way that might make learning about the Holocaust more accessible to future generations. The story was focused on one family's tale, yet it managed to tell about an entire nation. It saddens me to think how little people know about this dark time in history. We are so quick to glance over it or pretend it didn't happen exactly the way history books tell us. But I have met a survivor. I have read her story; and I won't forget.


Dana said... .

I read the first Maus graphic novel and loved it Great Review!

December 12, 2012 at 9:32 PM
Kaley @ Books Etc. said... .

I read one of the books for my cartoons and comics class in university. Don't get too excited - it's like the prof went out of his way to make the course boring! lol But, this is probably one of the best required readings I ever had in uni. I enjoyed (seems wrong to use "enjoy" with this storyline) it so much that I found the other book at my local library when I went home for the summer. So so so good.

December 13, 2012 at 7:31 PM

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