Graphic Novel Review: The Complete MAUS

mausThe Complete MAUS, Art Spiegelmann (2003)


Maus is a haunting tale within a tale. Vladek’s harrowing story of survival is woven into the author’s account of his tortured relationship with his aging father. Against the backdrop of guilt brought by survival, they stage a normal life of small arguments and unhappy visits. This astonishing retelling of our century’s grisliest news is a story of survival, not only of Vladek but of the children who survive even the survivors. Maus studies the bloody pawprints of history and tracks its meaning for all of us.

This combined, definitive edition includes Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale and Maus II.

A book can only be recommended to you so many times before, knowing next to nothing about it, you cave and grab yourself a copy.  When I first sat down to begin reading Maus, I was struck by how effective the black and white illustrations were, how much detail was fit onto one page and the amazing facial expressions of the characters.

The story, of course, was harrowing but fascinating.  Everything from the beginning of the war all the way through until the end.  Through gathering here, to being forced over there, to having to march somewhere else, and finally being separated and forced into Auschwitz, the story is incredible.  Vladek’s story is an especially interesting one to follow, as his resourcefulness saves his life more times than I could count.  Knowing that this is a true story, and that there are so many others like it, just makes it that much more amazing.

The best part for me was the way in which the different nationalities were portrayed as different animals.  You had mice as the Jewish characters (regardless of nationality), pigs for the Polish, cats for the Germans, frogs for the French, moose for the Swedish and dogs for the Americans.  This made it very easy to see the diversity of the characters (especially when it came to reading about the death camps; both on the side of the prisoners and of the guards) and also helped to show how the characters saw each other.  One of my very favourite things about the graphic novel was when the Jewish characters (the mice) wore pig masks to pass themselves off as Gentile Polish characters.  I think this was a fantastic way to show what

While I appreciated the “present day” story line for what it was; showing how Vladek’s life was changed by his experiences of the war, and how his wife and son were affected by this, too, I did find that it often pulled me too far out of the war story.

I’ve always been interested in the history of World War II and I have studied it several times and from different perspectives; for example, studying the complete history, from Hitler’s experiences in the first World War, all the way through to the end of the Second while at school in Germany was one of the most educating experiences of my life.  Maus is worth a read to everyone, and especially those with an interest in the history.  I promise you’ll love it as much as I did.



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