Book Review Wednesday: Maus (5 stars)

Posted: January 15, 2014 in Book Reviews
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

A graphic novel about world war two with mice as Jews and cats as Germans. Sounds a little out there, right? Not so much. I found it to be one of the most poignant  and realistic books on the holocaust I’ve read since Schindler’s Ark. The story goes back and forth between the author: Art, showing his difficult relationship with his father, and his father’s youth as a Jew in war-time Poland.

It’s heart breaking and funny too. You get a real sense that his father is just telling it like it is. We get to hear about the good parts, but also the bad too. While I loved Schindler’s Ark, it followed so many people that it could only add the extremes (not a bad thing – just a different type of book), but in Maus you get a real sense of Vladek’s life. Most of all you get a real sense of how different things were during the war. Morality was different back then, people had to do things to survive, and because of that you couldn’t trust many people.

Reading the graphic novel, you feel the atmosphere of the place. The art work does a good job of emphasising the story, and sometimes making it so much more powerful by showing it as it is with little comment. There are moments that will stay with me forever, and the idea that this actually happened is overwhelming.

There are two books: Maus 1 and Maus 2. Maus 2 wraps up the storyline nicely, while Maus 1 ends on a ‘to be continued’ note. Being graphic novels they were a short read. I spent a lot of time going back to absorb the artwork and memorable lines, and I still made it through each in a few hours with distractions included in that time.

I’d say that if you are half as interested in world war two as I am then Maus is a must read. It (a little ironically since the characters are shown as animals) puts a human face on the war. I’ve read a lot of facts and figures about world war two, and even some biographies, but this connected me to that place and time almost like I was there with them.

Best of all the people in this book are not heroes. Some do heroic things, but when people do you feel scared for them because the book puts you solidly in a time where heroic acts often killed you. Most are just people trying to survive and trying to help their families survive. This is what made the book so much more realistic than others I’ve read. This is the life of a typical Jew in world war two Poland, who by wits and more often pure luck made it through something that killed so many just like him.

Maus emphasises that the killings were random. The Nazis wanted all Jews dead, and if Vladek or his wife Anja had worse luck then they could have easily ended up dead.

In case you want to read further reviews on this book, here’s the link:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15196.Maus_I_

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