Friday, May 22, 2009

Ethel & Ernest by Raymond Briggs

Ethel & Ernest: A True Story
by Raymond Briggs
1999, Alfred A. Knopf
104 pages

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.
My thoughts:
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.


  1. I'll be keeping an eye out for this. Have you read Kampung Boy and Town Boy by Lat? They're so far my favourite graphic novels. You might like them. They're not fantasy at all. :)

  2. Hi Claire,
    I've never heard of either of those books, but I just requested Kampung Boy through inter-library loan. It looks pretty interesting...thanks for the recommendation!

  3. Because of you, I just placed this on hold from my library. Great review.

  4. Vasilly,
    I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. It's a special little book!

  5. The only graphic novel I have tried is Watchmen and I simply could not get into it. However, action/adventure superhero stories are not generally my cup of tea, so perhaps I should try this book before I discount the genre.

    I wanted to let you know that I gave you the "friendly blogger" award today.

    Hope you and your family have a great Memorial Day weekend celebration.

  6. I have never read a graphic novel but this one will have to be my first.

  7. Molly,
    Thank you for the award - that's so sweet! I would definitely try Ethel & Ernest before you close the book on graphic novels. Let me know if you decide to check it out!

  8. Book Psmith,
    I think this would be a great place to start!

  9. I'm definitely adding this one to my to-read list - it looks wonderful!

  10. Carrie,
    I hope you enjoy it - it really is a special little book!

  11. This might be the same Raymond Briggs who wrote the children's book THE SNOWMAN. Well, illustrated it, anyway ... I think all the versions of it are wordless, the pics tell the story.

  12. Dawn,
    This is the same author/illustrator as The Snowman. Such a talent!

  13. This sounds good - but I just don't think I'm cut out for graphic novels! I tried another one and just couldn't get into it. The illustrations here are beautiful, I must say.

  14. Tara,
    I'm sure graphic novels aren't for everyone, but I'm surprised at how much I liked this one. I have a couple more on hold at the library, but then that will be the end of my experiment.

  15. Finally, finally here I am! I am so very pleased, JoAnn, that you liked it. And I am touched that you read it just based on my note to you. This was a beautiful review, and I hope it leads many to the book.

  16. Nan,
    This was such a beautiful book, and one that I would surely have missed had it not been for your note! I know at least a few more bloggers have read it since seeing my review, too. I think we should all thank you!


Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! Be sure to check back, I always respond. Due to a recent increase in spam, all comments are moderated.


Related Posts with Thumbnails