I CANNOT BELIVE I TOOK THIS LONG TO FIND THIS BOOK! For mature readers only.
When I first learned of the graphic novel MAUS, I figured it was another Holocaust story where Jewish peoples were either forced into internment camps or were hiding from the Nazis. In other words, “Been there, read that.”
But MAUS by Art Spiegelman is so much more than “just” a Holocaust story. It is a life story. It is a human story. It is a son’s story. It is a father’s story. It is a story of a race of people. It is a deep, dark, horrific and even beautiful story about survival, mental health, love, family, lies, schemes, acts of kindness and cruelty. This work by Spiegelman was mind blowing.
I am having a hard time explaining about this graphic novel. Because to start talking about it, is to tell you the entire book. The overall is too tied into the individual pieces that makes everything whole. I will mention a few highlights and will say I was able to read both MAUS and MAUS II in The Complete Maus: A Survivor’s Tale in hardcover. Pay the extra as this is a graphic novel that will be kept. You will buy a copy for friends before lending yours out.
Three pieces that I especially enjoyed was how the different nationalities and people are shown physically. The Jewish people are mice. Nazi’s are cats. Polish people are pigs. Americans dogs. And one French person is a frog. But when actual humans are shown, that is also important. The second part is Spiegelman does not shy away from some ugly truths about Jewish people during the war and some of his father’s own prejudges. And the third is not so much that I enjoyed it, but marvel at how it was not shied away from. It is, to say the least, a disturbing piece of information. Spiegelman talks about the gas chambers workings and people who lived (even for a short time) to tell the tales. This and a description of a death scene were so intense I had to text a friend to tell them I had to stop reading with only a handful of pages to go (which I never do). I mentally hurt and was emotional for sure (thank goodness for pop tarts and Keanu Reeves to help get me in a better head space).
The art of Spiegelman must be read as well. I had not noticed that during one scene where our main characters (who have been hiding and are now finding a new hiding spot) are walking on a road that has been twisted into a swastika (it was only when I saw reference to this on another site that I went back and noticed it). Cleverisms like this fill both books. Therefore, take your time reading. It is easy to rush through (as I was doing), but you should not. You see the pieces of the emotion of the story teaching that this is not just a book about Jewish people living and dying during World War II. This is a book that shows how people hide behind masks, use their power to get whatever they can when they can and the human spirit and condition.
The flashbacks between the 1940s and “now” (I would assume “now” the 1970s-early 1980s) are telling, haunting and eye-opening. This is a book where you feel things and do not so much “read” them. It was an experience.