Ethel & Ernest by Raymond Briggs

Ethel & Ernest

Ethel & Ernest is a true story of Briggs’ parents, from their first encounter to their deaths. It’s a story of two ordinary people, who experience the changing of the world around them: Second World War, the arrival of television, people landing on the moon, as they brought up their only son. It’s really nice for a change to read a book about ordinary lives. No abuse, violence, extreme poverty, and all the things that make the world dark and gloomy. This time, it’s intimate insight into life of a simple working class couple, who have simple wants and dreams, who are happy and sad for things that are important to them (not necessary to the world of course).

The main storyline is okay, but I found some scenes to be very choppy. Sometimes there’s no transition to one scene to another, and scene can change in one page from one to another abruptly. So that makes it a bit hard to understand. Furthermore, the setting is in Britain, and there are some references that I couldn’t really get or relate on. But that’s probably just me.

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At some points of the book, I felt kinda annoyed with them. Interestingly though, it’s probably what I feel with my parents. I feel annoyed with my parents sometimes (okay, often!), but I cannot not love them. Their complaints to some aspects of life and to their son sound familiar. It probably just hits close to home. So at the end of the book, it’s really painful to see them dying. I mean, everybody has to die and you know from the beginning that the book tells the story of Ethel and Ernest until their deaths, but it’s still hard to swallow. I remembered my parents.

The art! How pretty! The art was exactly the thing that pulled me. I think it’s combination of crayon, color pencils, and marker. They somehow just make into something really beautiful. Love it! Look at the cover art below. The whole book looks pretty much like that.

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It’s really hard to rate a graphic novel without considering the art. So that’s what I’m gonna do.

Rating: 4/5 (3.5 for the storyline, 4.5 for the art)
Pages: 104
Publication year: 1999

Award
1999 The Illustrated Book of the Year from Galaxy British Book Awards

Also reviewed by

Things Mean A Lot (whose review just appeared on the same day before mine. We probably read it at the same time by coincidence :)

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12 thoughts on “Ethel & Ernest by Raymond Briggs”

  1. I really want to read this. It’s interesting you said it felt choppy. I was just thinking how I would tell my parents’ story, if I were going to do that, and I guess it would be really tricky. To tell the story of an actual life, without having it drag in places and be choppy in others…

  2. It did feel choppy at a few points, though the art almost makes up for all the flaws. You’re exactly right about it being tricky.

  3. I love Raymond Briggs! Isn’t he the author who also illustrated, and wrote, The Snowman? His pictures are as soothing as Norman Rockwell’s, somehow. Thanks for bringing this book to my attention as I’ve not heard of it before, but I love knowing new read alouds for my class.

  4. Mee, it’s because of you that I became interested in graphic novels. This one looks enticing. Stay tuned for my upcoming post on a different sort of graphic “novel”!

  5. I know what you mean about some of the transitions feeling abrupt. I would have liked more detail sometimes, but like you and Jenny were saying, it must be tricky to decide how much to include and how much to leave out!

  6. bethany: See the “Also reviewed by” :)

    Bellezza: Yes I read that he wrote Snowman, but I haven’t read it yet. Sounds like he has a few other popular books (probably kids’ books?), like When the Wind Blows, Father Christmas. Soothing is a good word to explain his illustration.

    Suko: I will! I have your blog on my reader, just that I don’t comment every time :)

    Nymeth: True, he probably tried to fit a lot of things into the number of pages he had in mind.

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