I absolutely adore reading - my love for books has had a huge impact on my life! I'm going to grad school to be a children's/YA librarian.
Maus is the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler's Europe, and his son, a cartoonist who tries to come to terms with his father, his father's terrifying story, and History itself. Its form, the cartoon, succeeds perfectly in shocking us out of any lingering sense of familiarity with the events described, approaching, as it does, the unspeakable through the diminutive. It is, as the New York Times Book Review has commented, "a remarkable feat of documentary detail and novelistic vividness...an unfolding literary event."
Moving back and forth from Poland to Rego Park, New York, Maus tells two powerful stories: the first is Spiegelman's father's account of how he and his wife survived Hitler's Europe, a harrowing tale filled with countless brushes with death, improbable escapes, and the terror of confinement and betrayal. The second is the author's tortured relationship with his aging father as they try to lead a normal life of minor arguments and passing visits against a backdrop of history too large to pacify. At all levels, this is the ultimate survivor's tale - and that, too, of the children who somehow survive even the survivors.
Part I of Maus takes Spiegelman's parents to the gates of Auschwitz and him to the edge of despair. Put aside all your preconceptions. These cats and mice are not Tom and Jerry, but something quite different. This is a new kind of literature. (source)
So far, I'm pretty impressed with Art Spiegelman's attempt to tell his father's Holocaust story through graphic novels. I read this as part of my graphic novel experiment and I do like it better than I did American Born Chinese, though I must confess that I'm still adjusting to the graphic novel format and so I may not appreciate the story as much as I ordinarily would.
I think that the way that Spiegelman has chosen to tell the story is interesting. He shifts between present day New York (though I am getting the impression that "present day" may actually be several decades ago) and World War II-era Poland. He doesn't put a huge emphasis on the fact that this is, in fact, a biography; it actually took me until I was probably 1/3 of the way through the book before I pieced together that this was the case. And I also think it's clever to use cats and mice as the characters (although to me, the cats look more like pigs, and I wonder if that was intentional?).
One thing that does bother me is that this is split into two books, and I wonder what the purpose of that was. I think that the split is in a logical place(show spoiler)
. But the book is only about 150 pages long, and while I haven't started Maus II yet, I think it's safe to assume that it's around the same length. This means that if the two parts were combined, they'd be around 300 pages long, which I consider to be pretty reasonable. As stated before, I am VERY new to graphic novels, so maybe 300 pages would be considered super unreasonably long, but I really don't see why - other than to bring in more money - Spiegelman would split this story in two. And if it is for no other reason than to make more money, I must admit, I'm disappointed.
The story is interesting and moving. Vladek and Anja go through so much - and it's important to note that this entire first installment focuses on their experiences before going to a concentration camp. But I do think that this is one aspect in which graphic novel format did this story a disservice - gone were descriptions of Vladek and Anja's experiences; instead we're limited to brief dialogue and illustrations, which, though better than anything I could do, are ultimately cartoons. However, it's entirely possible that I am still in "culture shock" as I adjust to graphic novel format.
I'm looking forward to reading Maus II, and I've already placed a hold on it at my library. Hopefully, I'll have it in a few days and then I can put another review up. I do like the story so far, but I definitely didn't get a feeling of completion at the end of this one - and while, yes, it is part I of II, I do think that there should have been a more decisive ending. However, this has shown me that graphic novels cover all sorts of topics and art styles, not just manga (not that there's anything wrong with manga, it's just never really appealed to me) and it has made me more enthusiastic about my graphic novels experiment. I'm still looking for graphic novels recommendations, so if anyone has any suggestions, please let me know!