The Complete Maus consists of both Maus I and II, bound together in a hardcover volume. I wanted to read them both together, to get the full story, and I am very glad I did. Maus is the story of Art Spiegelman's father, Vladek, and how he survived the holocaust. In the graphic novel, Jews are drawn as mice, Germans are cats, Poles are pigs, French are frogs, and Americans are dogs. The drawings make the material more unrealistic and yet they also draw us in more to the fact that though it seems unreal, this really happened.
Vladek survived the holocaust mainly through luck, but also by taking advantage of the situations he finds himself in. His wife, Art's mother, also survives, but ends up committing suicide more than 20 years later. The novel is not just about the holocaust, but it also documents Art's efforts to get his father's story. He does not have a very good relationship with his cantakerous father, and the novel shows how he has a difficult time being fair to his story. It gives the work more depth, and makes it that much more real to the reader. So much has already been said about this book, but I had never gotten around to reading it. I am so glad I did, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who has ever considered picking it up.
This book is my first read for the second quarter of the 2009 Martel-Harper Challenge. As I have described in previous posts, this challenge follows the list of books that Canadian author Yann Martel sends to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In his letter to Harper about this choice, Martel says that we sometimes need to be ripped apart in order to find our own stillness. The story of the holocaust certainly does that, and Maus is an incredible way of telling that story. I am also trying to read some of the books that another book blogger, Dewey, read throughout her book blogging years. This is for the Dewey's Books Challenge. She reviewed Maus back in January of 2006. And of course as a graphic novel it counts for the Graphic Novels Challenge - also the New Author Challenge, as I have never read Art Spiegelman before.