Friday, January 9, 2009

Maus: A Survivor's Tale - Volume 1 - My Father Bleeds History by Art Spiegelman

I cannot find a decent synopsis of this online, so instead of searching forever, I will just have to do it myself. Maus is a graphic novel duology that I have been hearing a lot about the last few years, but never got around to buying. This last year, with all the graphic novel and other challenges, it seems to have become much more popular. I finally decided to buy the two books with the gift cards that I received for Christmas, and I am glad that I did! This is the story about a son, who is a cartoonist, and his father, who is a survivor of Hitler's Germany. Art decides to tell his father's story in comic book form while his father is still around to tell it. His mother committed suicide, so he never had the chance to hear her part of the story, and he doesn't want to make the same mistake with his father. Maus is his father's world during the years of Hitler occupied Germany and the Holocaust. I think books on these subjects are so important because hopefully with education, we will not make the same mistakes as our predecessors.

I have to admit, even though I had heard great things about this book, and it won the Pulitizer prize, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it. It is tackling a very series subject, and instead of using people, he uses mice, pigs, and a few cats to play the parts. I wasn't sure if the story would have the same strength. I don't read a lot of graphic novels in the first place, so I wasn't really sure what to expect on many levels. The author is trying to come to terms with his father and the horrible things that his father had to go through during the Second World War. Everytime I read these accounts I am left horrified. It doesn't matter how often I hear it or how many books I read, this was a horrible thing! I will never understand it, either, and I hope to never know what it was it like for these people, because I believe the only way we will really know is to go through it ourselves.

Art does a fantastic job. This is a book that so many people should take the time to read! I was glued to the page, but I was also horrified at what I was reading. Life was hard for Art's family, as it was for so many others. To live through that and still manage to keep on going after the war was over is phenomenal. The strength it takes to overcome such obstacles, I only hope I am half as strong. While it is a serious subject matter, there is also humour written in. Art doesn't get along with his father so well, and instead of just talking about the past, he also writes about what it was like to visit his father while these interviews were taking place. His father lived through the worst, and as a result is rather hard to deal with. He has gone to the extreme following the events he lived through, so he is not exactly the easiest person in the world to live with (as his current wife says throughout).

While I read this, I found moments to laugh, but there are also many moments to cry. The Holocaust was a part of history that we should all be ashamed of. I sometimes wonder, though, if we have truly learned anything from it. The death was unbelievable. The families turn apart. The brutality is just mind-blowing. And, then, for there to be people living today that think it didn't happen, that it was all made up! That just goes against everything I have ever believed in! I don't think it is possible to make up something so horrible! Everyone should read Maus. It easily just made my top... whatever the number ends up being... for 2009!


  1. Wonderful review Kailana. This one is on my TBR and I must get to it. I have read so many reviews highly recommending this book. I really have to work on my preconseptions of graphic novels!

  2. Well, Teddy, I don't read a lot of Graphic novels, but everyone that I have read this year I have loved! It is totally changing the way that I look at them, which could be bad... lol

  3. Apologies in advance for ramblage, I'm not really sure how to order my thoughts on this...

    I came across this book in a store last November/December and actually opted to put it back down because I have an idea of how much it'll upset me.

    I've read three books dealing with the Holocaust in 2008 and all of them upset me far, far more than I thought they would.

    December 2007 also saw me visiting the Anne Frank House and the amount of people who seem to treat it like 'just another museum'... It makes me want to curl up into a ball and cry just thinking about it.

    One day, I'd like to try and read this too because it's so important such things are remembered and talked about, but it will be a while into the future when the memory of how strongly I reacted to the books I've read last year has faded enough for me to pick up the courage to.

  4. It is an upsetting subject matter. I don't think it is a topic you can really read about and not be disturbed by... At least, I hope not!

  5. You perfectly summed up so many of the things I loved about this book. Can't wait to read your thoughts on Part II.

  6. Aye, I'd hope so too. But my reaction was strong enough to hamper my ability to function in society for a while, so... *not sure now she made that clear enough the first time, apologises*

  7. Nymeth: Thanks. :)

    libritouches: Oh, sorry. If it bothers you that much, maybe take a pass on this one...

  8. I thought the Maus books were very good also. My husband had to read them for an English class in college years ago, and so I borrowed them and read them too.

  9. I loved these books, too. So very powerful. I loved the layers of the story, how he was able to show how the horrendous things experienced by his father affected everything that came after. Great review, Kailana!

  10. Alyce: I wish I had been made to read them in school. Would've been interesting to discuss them as a group!

    Debi: They were great, huh? I am glad I read them.

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