The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

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“No, darling! To die it’s easy… But you have to struggle for life!”

— Art Spiegelman, The Complete Maus

    This is a dreadfully moving narrative that shines through the many dichotomies of life. The Complete Maus is not like anything you’ve read before. Containing both Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father Bleeds History as well as Maus II: A Survivor’s Tale: And Here My Troubles Began, this volume recounts the story of Vladek Spiegelman and his wife’s perseverance and ruthless ordeal through one of the darkest times in history: the Holocaust. Art Spiegelman also interweaves his own story as the son of a survivor and the impact of a dark and twisted historical event on his generation. While exploring the comic medium in all its subtleties, The Complete Maus dives deep into the struggles of every day life and sheds light on the complexity of trust, of survival, of fear and of guilt. It is a inter-generational look into the heart-wrenching and horrendous events pertaining to World War II and the weight that individuals carry since its end.

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    The story revolves around Art Spiegelman desiring a in-depth look into the miserable and inhumane times that his father Vladek Spiegelman’s had to endure during the rise and fall of Nazis, in order to draw up a comic book story to share with the world. Shifting between past and present, readers are acquainted with the slow yet disastrous disappearance of peace, as well as the hardships and deaths that followed the radical change in the political landscape. The alternating narratives gives us a shocking look into the repercussions of the war on Vladek, as well as Art’s generation’s inability to connect with their parents. The guilt that arises in both character’s is however the most stunning and thought-provoking element of this story, as Vladek struggles with a survivor’s guilt, while Art struggles with a guilt soaked in a difficulty to connect and comprehend his father due to not having lived through World War II. It is in these moments that you see how this story manages to not only convey a Holocaust story, but to shape the fallout of the war on an individual level that affects multiple generations.

    The Complete Maus is also strong on metaphors with each nationality being represented by a different animal.  Therefore, Jews are drawn as Mice, Poles as pigs, Germans as cats, Americans as dogs and so much more. This raw depiction of individuals helps in conveying the story in a more collective rather than individual perspective and adds shock value to the events that unfold towards certain groups. Animal masks are also integrated into the story as they help in displaying the sheer necessity of hiding your true identity in order to avoid persecution during those times. If you think this would be an easy read, you should think again. The black and white artwork thrives in hammering into the readers the brutality and thickness of the tragedies, and dissolves the horrors into a much more tender and digestible substance. It will take some getting used to, but as you devour every page, the artwork quickly grows onto you and will eventually draw upon your emotions to deliver its story in all its cruel warmth.

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    If there’s anything that will stand out from this book, it is its unparalleled story-telling. This is not just another World War II story highlighting the Holocaust and all the misery and chaos that came with it. This is the story of several generations during one of the darkest times of history. It is a cartoonist’s journey to discovering his aging father’s odyssey and the highlighting of a intricate relationship between two generations. I have to say that this graphic novel covers so much ground, that it’s simply astounding. The Complete Maus brings us a black and white tale that reveals the repercussions of inhumane acts, the tumultuous relationship between individuals, whether it is between family, friends or nations, and the potential of comic books in conveying powerful narratives. By brilliantly jumping back and forth between the past and the present, The Complete Maus delivers one of the most beautiful stories out there. It is heart-warming and disquieting at the same damn time. This is a classic that everyone should give a shot.

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Are you interested in The Complete Maus?

How about you read this graphic novel for yourself!
You can purchase your copy @Amazon Canada or @Chapters Indigo now!
Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comment section below and follow us for more content!

MY OVERALL RATING: ★★★★★/

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64 thoughts on “The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

  1. Lilyn G says:

    I just recently started reading Maus with my 8 year old. Obviously she doesn’t ‘get it’, but I thought it was a good time to start introducing her to the story as previous stuff we’ve read has referenced the Holocaust before.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Oh, that is way too sweet! I would have loved to have discovered it at a young age. Would’ve probably forged my love for books/comics/history even more! I’m sooo sure that when she grows up and gets the opportunity to read it again, she’ll be truly amazed by the content in this graphic novel! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Bookstooge says:

    I remember when I read this and realizing how what the Holocaust Survivors went through not only shaped them, but it shaped their kids as well. I thought Spiegelman did a fantastic job of showing how something so horrific was inter-generational. That idea hadn’t struck me yet and I’m glad it was a book like this that got me thinking that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Yep. Like an oil spill. The impact can be seen over multiple generations, and in various form. Spiegelman really did one hell of a job in showing us how and why. A graphic novel that can be THAT insightful for you is definitely a fantastic indicator of GREATNESS.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. TeacherofYA says:

    I’ve wanted to read it bc it’s part of my heritage, but I have never had the chance. I hope to find it one day at an affordable price or at the library and pick it up…though I’m not normally a graphic novel person, this one is one I really want to read soon.
    Great review!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Oh, Stephanie, you should totally give this a shot. Even if you aren’t someone who typically goes after graphic novel, I believe Maus is a beautiful place to start for anyone curious enough in the story and in the medium. I do hope you enjoy it whenever you get the chance. Thank you so much for reading! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

    This is a great review for this book Lashaan. I’ve heard of Maus before but until this review I never knew what it was actually about. I saw the title and saw the artwork and I assumed it was a light-hearted comic.
    Apparently that was a very wrong assumption.
    But still this book sounds amazing, and a unique take on the Holocaust as well. I’m really glad to see you enjoyed this book. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Oh my, oh my. Would’ve payed to see your reaction reading Maus before my review! 😛 Thank you so much for the kind words, Beth. It is honestly one of the best graphic novels out there. Insightful and highly riveting. If I had to recommend a graphic novel, I’d always have this among the list. Maybe someday you’ll be curious enough to try it out, and hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as I did! 😉 Thank you again for reading!! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Beth (Reading Every Night) says:

        I can’t even begin to say what my reaction would have been! 😀
        That’s all right, and I haven’t read many graphic novels but it’s a genre/type of book I want to try and get into a little more. If I ever do I’ll definitely be adding this one to my to-read list.
        That’s all right! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      It is my pleasure, Kim!!! It always makes me happy to know that I can help a fellow bookworm discover a true gem that needs to be visited at least once in their lifetime! 😉 I highly recommend it, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did when you get the chance to pick it up. I’d even say its a treasure worth purchasing, but I’ma play it safe and let you decide the final outcome for this book! Hope you enjoy it when you get around to it. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

            • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

              I actually have a friend with the same background hahah. 😛

              Rent? On Amazon? Wow… I must have been living under a rock.. or Amazon Canada is just way behind.. I don’t even know how that works too. I know the most surprising thing on Amazon was the library bindings they would sell for some particular books, and price would be INSANE. I never understood it, and never tried to figure it out.

              I have purchased from Book Depository before, through Abebooks, in order to get my hands on some academic books for Uni though. I had zero issues, and the whole free shipping thing was just too awesome!

              Liked by 1 person

                • Bookstooge says:

                  butting in here, sorry 🙂

                  The “rent” thing is for college/text books. Somehow this must have been on some prof’s “to read” list and it percolated down to Amazon. You can rent text books for much cheaper than buying them outright and then return them. Not sure how successful it is though.

                  As for the library bindings. Those are specially ordered hardcover editions for libraries, of books that are released in just paperback. The hardcover extends the life of the book about 10x, so while it’s more expensive initially, the library saves money by not having to buy paperbacks time after time as patrons wear them out. Not sure how all the details work, but that is the general gist…

                  Liked by 2 people

  5. Yvo says:

    Excellent review! I have a weak spot for anything that has to do with WWII and this sounds like a truly unique portrayal of the suffering in that era. I like the fact that each nationality is represented by a different animal! I almost never read a graphic novel, but I might just have to make an exception for this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Thank you so much Yvo! 😀 I have to admit that I too have something for stories set around that war. I also think that there’s quite A LOT of stories focused around that, and seldom on other times. But this.. in the form of a graphic novel, definitely belongs among the top WWII-related stories out there, and I couldn’t recommend it more! Even people who rarely touch graphic novels, I believe, will find this one truly stunning! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yvo says:

        I will definitely keep it in mind since I’ve enjoyed the few graphic novels I tried in the past. The Complete Maus sounds like such a beautiful and original representation of the happenings in WWII!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Inge | The Belgian Reviewer says:

    I’ve never read a graphic novel before and normally I wouldn’t really choose this one because of the lack of colours but I think the content of this one really makes up for that and this one in particular doesn’t really need colours. I’ve heard about renting on Amazon too btw, it means some of your friends can lend it to you for a certain time. I know Jill has talked about it in one of her posts in the past.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      If the subject piques your interest in any possible, I’d highly recommend it. It is a brilliant place to start for anyone who’s never touched a graphic novel before too. It is a chef d’oeuvre for what it conveys, and how it conveys it all.

      Wow, sounds like it’s a much more interesting feature than I thought. Although I can’t tell if I’d ever try it out when I could go for libraries instead too. However.. I’m sort of addicted to “having” a book for myself and am very not likely to try the feature out for now. 😛 Pretty cool to know it exists though hahahah

      Like

      • Inge | The Belgian Reviewer says:

        Thank you, I think this is the second time I saw this one mentioned to non-readers of graphic novels so I’ll definitely keep it in mind. Well the lending service is only for ebooks I think so maybe not for you then.. but you’re lucky if you can find everything in your local library!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Anna says:

    I read this one recently and was totally blown away. I haven’t read very many graphic novels, but this one made me want to take out all the graphic novels in my local library.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      I know, right? Ever since my first excavation in the comic world, I’ve had Maus waiting in my TBR and couldn’t wait to try it out. It’s odd that I waited this long, but I’m really glad I finally checked it out! I know for a fact that there are soooo many phenomenal graphic novels out there; people just have to allow themselves to give those graphic novels a shot to truly understand their greatness!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Books, Vertigo and Tea says:

    Thank you for the additional insight with this one! It has been on my “mental” list for too long. I do not know why, but I feel I have to be in the correct mindset to appreciate all it has to offer. Since I have recently started watching a series of docs focused on the Holocaust and Auschwitz, maybe now is that time? I just added to my wishlist on Amazon for my next round.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Dani @ Perspective of a Writer says:

    Wow! Sounds like a kind of “1984” for the modern generation? The use of the graphic novel format withe the animals as metaphors for each nationality… how smart is that! It sounds incredible both in a smart way in a heavy way… High praise that you would have it on any must read graphic novel list (I understood that right, yeah?) I need to see if my library has it! Great review as always, so intriguing… I love the graphic novel format, actually manga are my love but Americans and others do their own versions quite well too. Thanks for the introduction to this series!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Aww, thank you so much for your kind words, Dani! You should totally give this a shot some day. The format and the story go together so perfectly in Maus. It’s definitely has a bunch of heavy moments, but the experience is unforgettable and has some very touching moments as well. By the way, I have the feeling that you wanted to refer to Animal Farm and not 1984 there (regarding the whole animal thing), am I right? Hahahahah Art Spiegelman definitely does a brilliant move by giving each nationality their own animal and playing on that metaphor to convey the story. It’s quite powerful!

      I do hope you’ll enjoy this when you get the chance! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dani @ Perspective of a Writer says:

        Hahaha, thanks! You know I think someone posted about 1984 recently, geeze. Anyway you knew what I meant. I read a lot of classics in school and my teachers would let me raid the English department’s book supply so I read many more than in regular curriculum… now they’re jumbled in the attic, lol.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      It’s good to know that you originally had an interest for this cause I would’ve definitely recommended it if you hadn’t known about it! 😀 I understand what you mean, its quite common for a lot of mood readers too. There are times were I just don’t want anymore crime novels for a while and just crave for fantasy novels, for example. Hopefully the perfect time for Maus will come soon enough for you and you’ll enjoy it just as much as I did! 😉 Thank you for reading though; I appreciate it!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Donna | Chocolate'n'Waffles says:

    Magnificent review of a book that should be a must-have. I don’t think I can handle to read it, because my family stories are still too present and painful in my heart and mind, but I just feel this book adds something other stories about those times don’t, and it’s important to touch as many people as possible, especially as time goes by and younger generations are getting farther from the horrors that happened.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Thank you so much Donna! That is extremely well said. The more distant these huge events are to current generations, the more insensible and less alert they’ll potentially be. It’s definitely important that they learn more about it and all the repercussions that came with it to better understand it. The last thing we also need is that these events get reproduced…

      I totally understand why you’d want to stay away from this for now. This was once can be summed as “gentle and cruel” at the same time; an odd couple but one that works perfectly together. Maybe someday you’ll be curious enough to give it a shot, when you feel like you want to feel loaaaads of emotions or something. 😉 Thank you for reading Donna! I appreciate it.

      Like

  11. Sophie @ Blame Chocolate says:

    My boyfriend has this one on his shelf and he’s tried convincing me to read it way too many times! I’ve been hesitant because – and your review just confirmed it for me – despite its harmless appearance, I’m pretty sure it will make me feel all the damn feels!
    I think it’s important that I try it, though. Master storytelling and a careful study of the human psyche seem the perfect ingredients for an amazing book. The fact that it’s so personal too just makes it incredibly unique. Also, I can’t get over how genius of an idea this is.
    Amazing review, as per usual, Lashaan! I’m so glad you enjoyed this one so much 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      Hahahah you’re boyfriend knows his shit! And it’s good that you already know that this graphic novel has the potential to make you shed some tears. It is a touching story, yet it is cruel at the same time! You’re definitely right about its master storytelling and exploration of human psyche (over two generations). This is one graphic novel that is worth checking out! Thank you so much for your kind words Sophie. I appreciate the time you take to read and share your thoughts with me! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sophie @ Blame Chocolate says:

        Oh, I’m ready! (I think. I never really am XD ) I’ll borrow it sometime soon and give it a go (apparently it was not my boyfriend’s but a friend of ours who lent it to him hahaha – I’m a shameful girlfriend!)
        Just need to make a quick trip to get tons of kleenex first XD
        You’re very welcome, Lashaan! The praise is all justified ^^ And my pleasure!

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Zezee says:

    Astounding indeed. A lot of folks in academics often refer to Maus to show what comics can do and achieve, to show that comics can also tell great, heartfelt stories. Apart from old Archie comics, Maus was the first comic book (or graphic novel?) I’d ever read. I immediately liked it and was instantly pulled in by the story. Back then, I think I read Animal Farm after this. Reading the two back to back worked for me since both substitute humans for animals and as a kid, it was easy to understand why those animals were chosen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lashaan (Bookidote) says:

      I wish Maus was part of my curriculum back in high school. Would’ve probably appreciated it a lot. I did know of its existence but never picked it up. It’s nice to see how you managed to read that and Animal Farm consecutively. I read Animal Farm before Maus and the animal metaphors were phenomenal in both books. Maus is definitely a classic. No lies.

      Like

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