Raymond Briggs has used his parents in his work before. They were the archetypes for the bemused elderly couple in his fable of nuclear war, When The Wind Blows
, and in lighter vein his father has been the model for Father Christmas. But in this latest work Briggs takes it a step further in writing (and, of course, drawing) a cartoon strip biography of his parents marriage from courtship in the twenties to death in the seventies. This tribute to ordinary lives--no affairs, no illness before the end, no regrets--is inevitably a very personal work, but also serves as a fascinating social history. From when they meet as milkman and parlour maid, through the Depression, second world war, childbirth (Briggs himself gets a particularly good cameo role in the sixties, replete with magnificent sideburns), old age and death, we see a world in rapid flux while Ethel and Earnest's loving relationship remains resolutely stable. The drawings are characteristically tender--the scene when his dead mother lies on a hospital trolley is particularly moving--and the simple text gives more than a taste of these people and the times they lived through. Sentimental as well as engaging? Absolutely. But work like this gives sentimentality a good name. --Nick Wroe
"A best seller in Britain, this winsome little book is one family's twentieth century, told as a comic strip that fast-forwards through the decades. Briggs's artful rendering of his parents' striving captures the English working class, and as the tale progresses, you find yourself slowly sucked into their daily patter, amused by their cooing voices, impressed by their bravery. At the end, you're hardly prepared for the emotional wallop." --"Time
"In the details of Briggs's sparkling cartoons, the characters become richly specific and endearing . . . both pathetic and heroic in the face of overwhelmingevents. [They are] what make you read through Ethel & Ernest over again." --Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, "New York Times
"Ethel & Ernest works brilliantly and artfully as an archetype. It is the author's willingness to frame his love and anguish so piercingly that makes it such a singular piece of work. We should be grateful that Briggs is so brilliantly equipped to remind us of what we u sed to be, and why." --Nick Hornby, "New York Times Book Review
"From the Trade Paperback edition.