Book Review: Maus

This book was both recommended and provided by my friend Vicky. I was over at her place because a mutual friend was in town, and I was staring at her case full of books. Vicky pulled Maus off the shelf and said, ‘you should read this’ in a very convincing manner. I’m not one to turn down a recommendation like this so I borrowed it and I couldn’t put it down.

The book is actually a graphic novel written and drawn by Art Spiegelman. The novel actually has a subtitle Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, I: My Father Bleeds History. The story is told through the conversations between a young man and his aging father, that are real events that happened to the author’s father.
The young man, Artie Spiegelman, was born in America, but his father, Vladek, was born and lived in Poland during the holocaust. As a jewish man, Vladek went through some of the worst the holocaust had to offer, and Artie wants him to retell it so that he can write a novel and publish it. (it looks like it worked).
I should mention that the main characters I just described are actually mice. The entire story is drawn such that all the jewish people are mice, all the Nazis are drawn as cats, and the polish people who are not jewish are pigs. This added dimension reinforces the power and control the nazis had over the jewish, and how helpless the jews were.
This installment starts in the mid 1930s when the jewish discrimination starting ramping up, and follows Vladek’s plight straight through to 1944 when he was sent to Auschwitz. This was one of the most well-known camps during the holocaust, though Vladek does not arrive here until the end.
The story really makes the holocaust real. Each story the father tells has you hanging on every word. He tells of how he was sent to work camps, and then had to pay off nazis to escape. He lived for years in bunkers built into the attics of his friends house, or into the ground under his home. He went years barely being able to find enough food for him and his wife. He tells stories of how his friends and family were all taken away by raids and sent to camps where everyone was gassed, or shot.
They’re horrific stories, but not graphic. No one in my family was in Germany or Poland during the holocaust so I have no personal viewpoint on this topic, but this novel REALLY brought the holocaust home for me. For us, the things that happened during those times to the jewish people was insane, and it’s hard to understand what it was like. But the father in this story knew nothing else, he lived every day in fear of being taken away, and it comes across in the telling. I felt connected the story in a much more personal way than when I learned about the holocaust in textbooks.
Perhaps the reason it was so impactful was that I knew it was based on real father/son conversations.
I really enjoyed it because it was a simple straightforward story of the holocaust. My friend Vicky said its great for teaching junior high/high school students with because its able to teach the facts behind the very emotional story. I would agree!
I highly recommend reading this one, there are more in the series as well. I think I might go after that one too.
happy reading!