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Ethel And Ernest Paperback – Import, 1998
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Raymond Briggs's loving tribute to his parents has an emotional power that far exceeds its deceptively simple technique. Graphic in format, the book combines vigorous but sensitive illustrations with dialogue that cogently elucidates its characters' personalities. Milkman Ernest meets lady's maid Ethel in 1928. In short order they are married, holders of a mortgage, and parents of a boy--solid members of the English working class, aspiring to more for their son. As they experience the Depression, World War II, postwar prosperity and cultural upheaval, readers come to know them intimately. Ernest is left-wing, unashamedly proletarian, and perennially enthusiastic about the great changes modernity is bringing, from unemployment insurance to highways. Ethel is a Tory, a bit of a snob, and far more realistic about how much actual improvement they can expect and what it will cost. They worry about their adored child constantly, especially after he goes to art school. She gets sick and grows senile in 1970; he dies shortly after her in 1971. It's hard to imagine a reader who won't weep when their son looks at the pear tree in the yard of the house the couple inhabited for 41 years and says, "I grew it from a pip." Plain words and plain people strike a universal chord in this touching memoir. --Wendy Smith --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
This wonderful book by noted children's author/illustrator Briggs (The Snowman) is something quite new: the story of his parents' quiet lives, played out against the stirring events of the century, done as a comic strip. Ethel was a rather timid ladies' maid, Ernest a dashing milkman, when they first saw each other in 1928. He swept her off in a whirlwind courtship, and they bought the little London row house where they were to live the rest of their days. In pictures exquisitely attuned to the niceties of English domestic architecture and period clothes, Briggs takes Ethel and Ernest fondly through the decades. He is born, a source of great joy, but it's a difficult birth and Ethel is told she can't have any more children. World War II approaches, and little Raymond is sent off to the country as an evacuee. After the war, Ernest, an ardent Socialist, believes that utopia has arrived, while the more cautious and conservative Ethel keeps bringing him back to earth. Then come the wonders of their first car, the advent of television, Raymond's eventual marriage in the swinging '60s and the aging couple's gradual decline into senility, floowed by their deaths within weeks of each other. The dialogue is heartbreakingly accurate, the pictures cinematic in their conveyance of delight and drama; the whole book is not only a deeply moving testament to "ordinary" folk but a precious piece of social historyAthe essence of a lower-middle-class English life over seven decades. This was deservedly a bestseller in England and warrants no less here. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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It reminded me of the Classic comics I loved as a child--you were learning some history while the images enhanced the human interest aspect greatly. I bought this as a birthday present for my (Irish) sister-in-law, who grew up in England in the 1940's-1960's.
In this graphic biography, we see how life in England changes and how his parents reacted to these life altering events. The narrative is simple as we learn of Ethel and Ernest's desires and their set patterns and way of life. As a reader we get to see their true politics, biases and their take of what the world is and should be. Above all while it may show the usual marital spats, it shows a simple couple leading a simple life and above all content and happy with each other's company.
This rather simple graphic true biography was truly the best graphic book that I've read. The fact of the matter it is a true story. It can be read in one sitting. However you'll find yourself going back to it time and again. This is a true artistic classic of the graphic genre. I don't have enough Stars!!!
And that's more than enough. Briggs' story is little more than a series of snippets of conversation and events of a long relationship. We see Ethel and Ernest bond, bicker, and regret. We see the love they have for themselves, and how they adjust over time. There's a great conversation between the two while Ernest is watching the moon landing, and Ethel just doesn't see the big deal of it all. I was greatly surprised when the story was done and I felt real sorrow for the two of them. Briggs' artwork is really moving, and displays the changing of the times on his parents very well.
This is a nice, quiet, loving character study about two people who may not have lived an exciting life, but that's probably one of the things that makes this piece of graphic literature work best. Highly recommended to all fans of serious graphic art.