Cover image for Ethel & Ernest
Ethel & Ernest
Briggs, Raymond.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Knopf : Distributed by Random House, 1999.

Physical Description:
103 pages : color illustrations ; 24 cm
General Note:
"Originally published in Great Britain by Jonathan Cape, London, in 1998"--T.p. verso.
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
CT788.B7742 B75 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Poignant, funny, and utterly original,Ethel & Ernestis Raymond Briggs's loving depiction of his parents' lives from their chance first encounter in the 1920s until their deaths in the 1970s. Ethel and Ernest were solid members of the English working class, part of the generation that lived through the most tumultuous years of the twentieth century. They met during the Depression--she working as a maid, he as a milkman--and we follow them as they court and marry, make a home, raise their son, and cope with the dark days of World War II. Briggs's portrayal of how his parents succeeded, or failed, in coming to terms with the events of their rapidly shifting world--the advent of radio, television, and telephones; the development of the atomic bomb; the moon landing; the social and political turmoil of the sixties--is irresistibly engaging, full of sympathy and affection, yet clear-eyed and unsentimental. Briggs's illustrations are small masterpieces; coupled with the wonderfully candid dialogue, they evoke the exhilaration and sorrow, excitement and bewilderment, of experiencing such enormous changes. As much a social history as a personal account,Ethel & Ernestis a moving tribute to ordinary people living in an extraordinary time.

Author Notes

Raymond Briggs was born in London in 1934. One of the most innovative & popular author-illustrators in the world, he has won many awards for his work. His children's books, including the classics "The Snowman" & "Father Christmas" have sold millions of copies worldwide. He lives in England.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Briggs' acutely observed, lovingly told comic-strip tale of milkman Ernest and housemaid Ethel, who meet and marry in post^-World War I London, is the story of a prototypical working-class couple, a pocket history of Britain in the twentieth century, and a touching tribute to Briggs' parents, the book's inspiration. Ethel and Ernest nobly contend with the onslaught of the century's changes, from the blitz to decimal currency to a man on the moon, as well as such personal tribulations as their son Raymond's decision to go to art school ("He'll never get a proper job with hair like that!" Ethel moans). Briggs' detailed drawings--pastel renderings that often conjure a dreamlike aura--well evoke period and milieu, and his spot-on dialogue nails the characters, contrasting Ernest's naive idealism and Ethel's common sense. The many Briticisms may put off some stateside readers, and the comic-strip format may discourage others, but Briggs' warmhearted celebration of the ordinary is surely appealing enough to win the big audience it deserves. --Gordon Flagg

Publisher's Weekly Review

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 historyÄthe essence of a lower-middle-class English life over seven decades. This was deservedly a bestseller in England and warrants no less here. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Briggs (The Snowman, When the Wind Blows) is possibly the premier cartoonist publishing exclusively with a major publishing house, and any new work of his deserves a very careful look. Here, we are presented with a story for adults, the cartoon version of Briggs's parents' lives. What comes across is a social history of Britain from the years prior to World War II to the death of both parents in 1971, as they and their son are caught up in larger political events. Because of the brevity of the narrative, we are only allowed glimpses of what Briggs's parents were like; unfortunately, they are cast too neatly as opposites, with one rigid and the other more spontaneous. There is also a bit of sentimentality in the presentation of struggling young artist Raymond Briggs. The artwork is sure, easygoing, and playful; clearly, Briggs is on top of his artistic and storytelling abilities. The question is whether his medium is subtle enough to carry his message. This book will interest Briggs's many fans as well as readers interested in modern British history.ÄStephen Weiner, Maynard P.L., MA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-An engrossing and revelatory picture story. After a brief courtship, Ethel, a ladies' maid, and Ernest, a milkman, married and bought a house. Much bemused at the size and amenities of this dwelling, they settled in to make a home. After some years, their only child, Raymond, was born and the small family moved through the world of working-class England before, during, and after World War II. Ernest's strong socialist bent contrasted with Ethel's admiration of the vanishing aristocracy. The Depression years, Raymond's evacuation during the war, the Blitz and the extended rationing, and the new socialistic government policies and the relative security of the `50s are realistically portrayed in both colored pictures and text. While presenting this story in a comic-strip format, Briggs doesn't flinch at revealing personal details; at the end, readers see his mother's disease-ravaged corpse and his father's inability to carry on. This is a vivid chronicle of a time and place not very far past and the life story of an average, but loved and loving couple. As a memoir, as a graphic novel, as an invitation to participate in someone else's memories, it is most successful. A quick but haunting read that's sure to involve anyone who picks it up.-Susan H. Woodcock, Chantilly Regional Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.