Read this book when you’re alone, the wind around you drowning out the world, the sunlight and air isolating your mind so that it will only be you and...moreRead this book when you’re alone, the wind around you drowning out the world, the sunlight and air isolating your mind so that it will only be you and Edith, you and her story. So you can feel who she is and where she went with all the realness of being there.
It will be well worth it. It certainly was for me.
Firstly, I must mention that I love personal stories, that I love experiencing other people’s lives, and that I forgive most failures in storytelling because I know a real person had made it, not necessarily a professional writer, and most certainly not a professional writer creating a fictional tale that can be so easily modified for irony and suspense. That being said, I love Edith’s story. I find her experiences moving, sad, hopeful, and deep. I seem to forever be searching for a word that conveys the depth and danger, interest and didacticism, sadness and optimism that I find in the best stories. I would describe Edith’s memoirs with that word.
Similarly, I cannot say I enjoyed the story, for in it there was much sadness and fear. I cannot say I was fascinated and interested, for there was much more than those shallow, impersonal pleasures. I can say I was moved, but there was also so much more. There was learning, feeling, hoping, and crying.
Edith explains her life from her childhood to her trials during World War II. She lays down the most intimate details of her life, unedited, to give us a whole and perfect image of her personality, her dreams, and her life longings. Through her details, we come to know her as a real person and we come to understand everything she does and to feel those same emotions that she did throughout her ordeal. We can feel both her torture sand her triumphs intimately.
About the writing style: At first, it made me pause. Edith occasionally addresses the reader in the second person. But I think in the end, this is not a factor in the quality of the storytelling. In fact, it can be a great aid in bringing her closer to you, in making her story that much more personal.
Besides this, the narrative style is perfect. The emotions of real life are recreated with as much storytelling devices as real life can maintain. Scenes and dialogue are recreated with a perfect balance of immediacy and summary.
//Potential spoiler// And on its title: Some may wonder why her book is titled the way it is, without her being the wife of a Nazi officer except for a short time in the story. But I think no word could describe a person wholly through life and that something must be used to symbolize the story presented. “The Nazi Officer’s Wife” fulfills this latter reason. In her incredible experience, Edith had to live a life like the rest of the Nazis. She had to pretend to be someone she was not, pretend to be a Nazi. In many ways, she was wedded to this lie, this incredible lie of agreement with monsters. This is how the title symbolizes her struggle. //Potential spoiler//
What an incredible book, an incredible story, an incredible woman.(less)
I stepped out of our car at the rest stop on the long drive from Sacramento to LA. The music playing in front of the MacDonald’s was so light, so happ...moreI stepped out of our car at the rest stop on the long drive from Sacramento to LA. The music playing in front of the MacDonald’s was so light, so happy, focused on love and feelings. But suddenly it all seemed so frivolous. People milled in and out of the glass doors, wandered to and from their hot, sticky vehicles. They all seemed to blissfully unaware. Didn’t they understand the deeper things in life? Was it just all about themselves?
You see, I’d just read a stirring chapter in Vienna Prelude. And to me at that moment, I was walking among the everyday folk in America and Great Britain, among the kind of people who figured that anything that was not New York or London wasn’t worth a thought about. I felt like John Murphy, from the story, who’d despaired at the isolationist attitude running through the Allies. They didn’t know a Holocaust was coming, and did they care? Only the few, exiled Churchill and beaten Eden, saw what we know now.
But it was this book which gave me this perspective. It was this piece of fiction that spoke fact like I’ve never felt it before. There are many times in this book where I’ve cried, where I’ve been enlightened, where I have joyed or sorrowed in events so real and poignant. It is not a book of mere entertainment. It is a book to make you grow and understand. What it teaches ranges from the political to the spiritual. From this book, I’ve learned and understood the political feelings before the war. I’ve learned how people could crowd the streets to cheer Hitler. I’ve learned how one could hope in a place like Dachau, I’ve learned how the danger of isolationism can lead to another Holocaust. I’ve learned how small a person could feel when he is living in times like the late 1930s, when he knows what is coming, but can do nothing to stop its evil advance. And I’ve placed a greater meaning to the Christian idea of “hoping in the Lord.” Hope is such a little thing to people like us who are financially and politically secure, but to those people, hope was something tangible. My perspective has been shifted so I can see and appreciate the deeper things by seeing myself in their shoes and asking, how would they see this?
In critique, the style of the writing is perfect, vocabulary changes from character to character, and one reads it as though it were a movie. The narrative was a little heavy, at first, as Thoene gave us backstory and background. Around 70-80 pages into the story, things begin to really get moving, and from there, it doesn’t stop much. Amazingly, there is no long lull in the middle that has come to every other story I’ve read. Thoene does a marvelous job of pacing, mixing humor, irony, and tragedy in a rich, complex blend of perfect poignancy.
Vienna Prelude has left me with images and scenes that I’d want to remember all of my life. So many are powerful, so many have such meaning and purpose. I’ve truly learned so much, experienced so much, felt and understood so much that I could never have gained from mere history books alone. Richness and depth are my criteria for beauty, and Vienna Prelude is beautiful indeed.
“Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan” (JS Bach) What God has done is rightly done.(less)
A truly remarkable book – unique and refreshing and incredibly meaningful. It is a story of the Holocaust, but it is more: It is also the story of a m...moreA truly remarkable book – unique and refreshing and incredibly meaningful. It is a story of the Holocaust, but it is more: It is also the story of a man and his father, coming to terms with that terrible chapter in history. In fact at times, the Holocaust is the backdrop to the pressing personal conflict between Art and Vladek Spiegelman. This is what makes Maus so unique and so different; it shows a different side to the Holocaust, the side of children coming to terms with their parent’s ordeal.
The depth of meaning juxtaposed in the comic anthropomorphic concept is incredible. We are brought to the lowest pit of despair, wallow in the tragic insanity of the Holocaust, then are yanked suddenly out to experience the humor, sad irony, and tenderness of Vladek’s current life. The pacing is breathtaking, and this contrast puts the Holocaust in the realm of actual, ordinary reality: It happened to actual, ordinary people with our problems and our humor and our kind of life. It helps make the Holocaust approachable and, to some extent, relatable.
In all, Maus is decidedly human, it seems, in spite of the anthropomorphism. We see tenderness in deft touches, guilt and sadness. It all sparks of reality. The literary fourth wall is broken throughout the book: the narrator Art Spiegelman speaks of this very book in the making. And midway through, we see Art the author experience the trauma and pain of approaching the subject of Auschwitz. Somehow, knowing the author’s conflict in writing about the Holocaust does much to show the personal nature of its horror and hardship.
This is a book that grabs your attention. Its characterization, allusions, and meanings are all quietly, yet powerfully conveyed. The best literature defies categorization, and Maus, which found itself no conclusive category in the Pulitzer Prize it so incredibly deserved, fits the description aptly. Indeed, Maus is a richness beyond words.(less)