Ethel & Ernest: A True Story
by Raymond Briggs
1999, Alfred A. Knopf
Three sentence review from Time:
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.
Last week, my experiment with graphic novels taught me that there is much more to the genre than science fiction, fantasy and super heroes. This week, thanks to Nan's recommendation, I learned that graphic novels can be as touching, moving, and beautiful as any story told solely with words.
Ethel & Ernest is classified as a biography, but it is really much more. Raymond Briggs has used his remarkable artistic talent to compose an affectionate tribute to his parents. How else would you expect the author of The Snowman to convey his love (and, at times, frustration)?
The book opens with Ethel and Ernest's chance meeting in 1928 (he was a milkman and she worked as a maid) and follows them through marriage, child-rearing, the war, and on into their golden years. We observe their political squabbles, as well as their wonder at advancing technology. I was amazed at this little book's ability to allow us to get to know Ethel and Ernest
as they make their way through life. We see their quirks and foibles as they interact with each other and with their only child.
Turning the last page, there was actually a tear in my eye. What? From a graphic novel? I was shocked! Thank you, Nan, for pointing me toward this little gem of a book.