Book Review: The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman

“No, darling! To die it’s easy… But you have to struggle for life!”

Art Spiegelman, The Complete Maus

Title: The Complete Maus
Author: Art Spiegelman
Genres: Non-fiction, Memoir, Graphic Novel, Biography, History, World War II
Pages: 296 (Hardcover)
Published: 1980

My Rating: ★★★★★
Read: 4/9/2023 – 4/30/2023


I didn’t realize first going into this that this was a memoir. I guess from the cover I assumed it was a depiction of the Holocaust with a ‘cat and mouse’ metaphor. I realized as soon as I started reading that this wasn’t fiction and it made the analogy all the more powerful.

Comic writer and illustrator Art Spiegel tells his father’s WWII survival story in a series of two books (combined into one edition in this printing). Though not illustrations of humans, the imagery of the concentration camps (and what Jewish people went through in general) is as grim as you’d expect them to be. This isn’t a watered-down narration that tried to spare the reader from the horrors. It’s a raw and honest account.

The book is told brilliantly going back and forth between Art’s conversations with his father as he relayed his story to that story unfolding on the pages. There are some abrupt starts and finished here and there, but it added to the tone of the book. There is still so much we don’t know about what happened during the Holocaust that we may never learn.

In addition to being a book about the Holocaust (namely in Poland), it’s also a book about the relationship between a father and son. Intergenerational trauma is a fascinating psychological phenomenon. This has often been seen among children with parents who have had traumatic experiences before their children were born. This along with the natural generational gap between parents and children makes up a lot of the subtext in Art and Vladek’s story.

Perhaps it’s needless to say that this book is going to stay with me for a long time. It’s right up there with The Diary of a Young Girl and The Boy on the Wooden Box. The stories of these victims must be kept alive. 

Likes & Dislikes:

What I liked:

  • The lack of censorship about what was going on in the camps.
  • The illustrations weren’t overly graphic but they got the horrific message across.
  • The emotion.

What I didn’t like:

  • The inclusion of one of Art Spiegelman’s earlier comics threw me off especially given the artwork is so different. It was relevant to the plot, however.


A huge thanks to my friend Skylar for gifting me this book when she heard I hadn’t read it yet. I can’t believe I’ve let this reading experience slip by for so long.

Where to buy the book:

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