Book Review by Steph Huddleston
Genre: Non-fiction Graphic Novel
The award-winning The Complete Maus explores the generational impact of the holocaust in a unique format.
The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman is an award-winning non-fiction graphic novel. The novel details the experience of the author’s Jewish parents in world war two. As told through a conversation between Spiegelman and his father. The Complete Maus unpacks the generational impact of the holocaust. Spiegelman depicts Jews as mice, playing on the Nazi idea of Jews as vermin.
What we thought
The Complete Maus is an exploration of morality in extreme circumstance. Readers are invited to consider how Vladik (Spiegelman’s father) has been shaped by his experiences.
Written over thirteen years, readers witness Art Spiegelman’s struggle to grasp his father’s experience. The book explores the effect his experiences may have had on their relationship. Readers themselves will likely reach a similar conclusion, that some tragedies can never be grasped, except by a survivor. The attempt to do so is important, as it challenges our assumptions about history and people.
There’s a reason the book has graced school curriculum lists since its publication in 1980. Graphic novels provide a different media for readers to engage with the holocaust. Maus utilises many storytelling devices more common to the novel than with traditional non-fiction. It grapples with complex issues such as grief, survival, morality and identity. It is the kind of book that invites readers to engage with ideas they may otherwise not be receptive to. In large part because of the comic format. In The Complete Maus the past and present intertwine, to share a story about the legacy of struggle within a family history.
The Complete Maus is Perfect For
Adult readers, or caregivers looking for a book to read with your teen. This book provides an opportunity to discuss the holocaust with your teens, in a format that is accessible. If you’ve been considering exploring more graphic novels, this is a great place to start. The critical acclaim of this book is well deserved.
Bonus – Interview with the author
Looking to hear more about The Complete Maus? Here’s an interview with Art Spiegelman.
WARNING: This book contains: descriptions/depictions of the holocaust, genocide & other war crimes, suicide, difficult relationships with parents.