Containing both volumes 1 and 2 of Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, The Complete Maus tells the complete story of Vladek Spiegelman’s experience of surviving in Hitler’s Europe.
The first and most important thing to make note of is that this is a completely true story. It isn’t a piece of fiction based in the truth of Auschwitz, it is a true account of Art Spiegelman’s father’s life during World War II. It is a heavy and intense read, but completely incredible.
The second important thing you need to know about this book is that it is a graphic novel. It is masterfully drawn, with plenty of narration which makes it easy to read even if you’re not a regular graphic novel reader. The metaphorical representation of people is a massive part of this book. Jews are drawn as mice, Nazis as cats, the Allies as dogs, and Poles as pigs. This is an incredibly effective commentary on stereotypes, and highlights the absurdity of dividing people by nationality.
The brutal honesty about life as a Jew during the Nazi occupation is shocking and horrific, but truly, truly fascinating. On another level, the relationship between Art and Vladek is also explored, and it really shows how the children of survivors can be so affected by the experience of their parents.
Maus isn’t an easy or pleasant read by any means, but it is powerful and it’s essential. If you’re into graphic novels, you MUST read this book. If you’re into historical accounts and memoirs, you MUST read this book. If you read anything at all, you MUST read this book.