BONUS REVIEW Ethel & Ernest: A True Story – Raymond Briggs

Ethel & ErnestThis is a biography of sorts concerning the parents of author and illustrator Raymond Briggs. It follows them from meeting each other to their passing away and all the changes they saw around them in that time. As much as it is their story it chronicles the important events of Britain including the Second World War and the founding of the Welfare State.

Told as a series of vignettes, seldom more than a page or two long, the book is more of a reminiscence than a narrative. All of these tiny fragments blend into a seamless chronological whole. Time passes imperceptibly and you get to know and care for these two people (and their son) as the book progresses.

You smile at the simple pleasures and strange attitudes of your parents or grandparents generation. You see the impact of both war and indoor plumbing and take stock of what is really important in life. Briggs also makes sure he puts some of the key emotional points of his own life in there, possibly as a form of catharsis, or an important record for his future.

The art is superb as with any Briggs book. Great attention is paid to the lettering with special borders for wireless broadcasts and a charming letter from their evacuated son. Long conversations are done in script form so as not to slow down the pictures. You can potentially see Briggs love of the colour green coming from his childhood bathroom. The book ends with a series of full page panels, some of which are mute, adding real gravitas to the closing of this heartfelt work.

Thumbs Up!