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Cat and Mouse: 07/26/09
Cat and Mouse is an early novel by author and poet, Günter Grass. It's the second book in the Danzig trilogy. It's a German coming of age novel set during WWII and it reminds me quite favorably of John Knowles's novel A Separate Peace (1959).
The unnamed protagonist says early on that the book isn't about himself but instead about "The Great Mahlke." Mahlke was a childhood friend known for his big adams apple, the screwdriver he wore around his neck and his love of swimming.
Although the book is set during the war, much of the book is spent reminiscing about summer days swimming out to a sunken Polish minesweeper. While the boys sat on the top of the ship, Mahlke would dive down into the ship to salvage whatever he could find: cans of food, an old gramaphone, and so forth.
Like Finny in A Separate Peace, Mahlke is a bit of a rebel. He's later expelled from school and again like Finny, doesn't make it to the end of the book. While Mahlke's disappearance is more open ended than Finny's death, it's implied that he died in the war and that the Iron Cross is being awarded posthumously.
The other two books in the trilogy are The Tin Drum (1959) and Dog Years (1963).