Maus 1 & 2 by Art Spiegelman


So. Maus. I basically never really heard of these books until I read Laura’s review of MetaMaus a while back, and the idea intrigued me. A survivor’s tale of the Holocaust in comic format, in which the Jews are mice and the Nazis are cats? Interesting. And it was.

Maus 1

So, basically Maus is written and drawn by Art Spiegelman, whose father Vladek was a Holocaust survivor. Though he and his father weren’t very close for many years, they eventually start talking again and Art interviews his father about his story. Maus 1 is the first volume, in which Vladek recounts his story from the time before he meets his wife (and Art’s mother) Anja, to the time when they are both captured and taken to Auschwitz. It also shows the beginning of Art’s interviews with his father, and we catch glimpses of their strained relationship and Vladek’s difficulties in old age.

Maus 2

Maus 2 continues the story, starting with Vladek and Anja being taken to Auschwitz and eventually to the end of the war. At the same time, Art and Vladek’s relationship continues in the present day and Art tries to deal with some of the issues he has as the result of being a child of a Holocaust survivor, as well as trying to deal with the commercial success for Maus 1.

These books are extremely well done. Some may think that such a serious topic in comic-format would lose some of its importance, or its horror, but that would be wrong. Instead the awfulness of this time and of Vladek’s story is accentuated by the simple but strong images. Vladek’s story as a survivor is impressive – while he certainly suffered, he was also resourceful and in fact sometimes it was  hard to wrap your head around just how awful it must have been for him. But then you glance at the pictures and see the starved corpses and hanging bodies around Vladek and it reminds you of the pain he must have gone through. The fact that this story is done in comic-format made it one of the most powerful Holocaust stories I’ve read.

While Vladek’s story was definitely sad and captivating, I found the present-day scenes between Art and Vladek just as interesting, if not more so. In his younger years, Vladek was smart and financially successful and his cleverness and restraint served him well when he was trying to stay alive. In his older age, these traits have hightened – to the point of ridiculousness in the eyes of the other characters/ people in the book. Vladek has become extremely frugal and prefers repairing things himself or other things to save money where he can. This actually really helped me to relate to Vladek – my grandma grew up during the Great Depression and she had some of the same habits. The comic also shows how frustrated Art was with his father, and how hard he worked to be objective when creating Vladek in the book. I did find it… odd, I suppose… that Art and Vladek didn’t seem to really grow closer throughout the interviews, but maybe that’s explored more in MetaMaus. (Which, by the way I have from the library now and I’ve flipped through it and it seems awesome. I need to read it soon.)

Also depicted in the book is Art’s struggles – the guilt he feels for having an easier life than his parents, his issues over his mother’s suicide, frustration and confusion over how to proceed with such a rough topic, and trying to deal with the commercial success of Maus 1.These were some of my favorite parts of the book.

I think his use of animal heads to show the races of the characters was really clever and really useful. I think that the same story but told with comics of human characters would have been overkill – the use of animal heads was a simple style that I really liked and left more room for detail to the story and setting. And there are all sorts of metaphorical and sociological implications to it as well, but seriously that could be a whole separate long-ass blog post. There are a lot of things to discuss in this book – the father-son relationship, the Holocaust, racism, the comic format as a medium, the effect of the Holocaust on later generations, etc. It would take hours for me to really talk about it all.


Maus impressed me in a lot of ways. It was certainly captivating and thought-provoking and just fantastic. I borrowed the copies I read from the library, but I’m going to have to go out and purchase my own, and I’m sure I’ll litter them with post-it notes expressing all my thoughts and ideas and such about the book. Cause that’s what I do.

Anyways, you should read Maus. It will only take you an afternoon to read 1 & 2 (or the complete volume, if you have it) and then you can come here and talk to me about it, yes?

Sarah Says: 5 stars



  1. The minimalist yet detailed drawings were an excellent choice. It helped the story become so much more powerful. I also liked how Spiegelman was very honest in a sympathetic way about his family and left no group unscathed. Art being a little impatient and self-serving, Jews selling each other out, etc. Such a fascinating look at that horrendous event.


  2. I’ve heard of Maus books before, but although this topic interests me I haven’t really wanted to read them exactly because of the comic format. You make it sound really good, though, so I’ll check them out. Thanks for sharing!


  3. Yay, I made you read Maus! I’m SO glad you liked it/were moved by it/thought it was the awesomest! Also, I really really like the bits between Art and Vladek too, just because I think it would be easy to say ‘my dad is a Holocaust survivor, so he’s immune to criticism’, whereas Spiegelman wants to be more realistic about the way his father actually is; which I’m sure opened him up to criticism but well, I like things to be real, you know?

    Also- in response to your comment on my SUPER OLD POST (first comment on it too- so proud hehe!) I definitely think that the Germans were basically all Nazis because yeah, he mainly just encountered Prison Guards and things who were fully signed on to the Nazi agenda. I guess that if Vladek had lived in Germany then Spiegelman would have had to think of a way to draw the non-Nazi Germans, but then, I’m not sure there were that many of them around (at least not openly because, well, they didn’t want to die you know?) But anyway, yeah, so that’s that!


  4. I’m so glad you liked it! I read it last year and felt the same way. It’s so powerful and a bit overwhelming too because there’s so much there to digest. I think everyone should read this book and I think Spiegelman did a great job of presenting it in an accessible format. Maybe that’s why it’s so popular, because it’s easy to read but packs a big punch. People might be intimidated by a thick novel about the holocaust, thinking it depressing and difficult to read. But a short graphic novel with cats and mice, that’s do-able! And once someone picks it up, they’ll be changed by reading it. Genius!


  5. I’m glad you got a chance to read it! I read it last year and loved it just as much, although it can be a bit overwhelming at times because there is so much to digest and think about. I think making the book a graphic novel was a stroke of genius on Spiegelman’s part because he made this book accessible to so many people. A thick book about the holocaust would probably come across as boring and hard to read. But a graphic novel with cats and mice, that seems much easier to read. Then, once the reader has started it, they’re hooked and can’t stop reading!


  6. Yes…definitely a 5 star book! I encouraged my husband to suggest this for his book group since I think the men would have a lot to discuss on father/son relationships as well as the nazi story.


  7. Maus was amazing and very hard to put down. It was incredibly detailed and honest but I think having people portrayed as animals made it a little easier to get through.


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