Ethel & Ernest

Raymond Briggs, Author Alfred A. Knopf $21 (104p) ISBN 978-0-375-40758-1
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 history--the essence of a lower-middle-class English life over seven decades. This was deservedly a bestseller in England and warrants no less here. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/30/1999
Release date: 09/01/1999
Paperback - 104 pages - 978-0-375-71447-4
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