Book review: Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs

Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs



Blurb from Amazon;

Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs

Raymond Briggs has used his parents in his work before. They were the archetypes for the bemused elderly couple in his fable of nuclear war, When The Wind Blows, and in lighter vein his father has been the model for Father Christmas. But in this latest work Briggs takes it a step further in writing (and, of course, drawing) a cartoon strip biography of his parents marriage from courtship in the twenties to death in the seventies. This tribute to ordinary lives–no affairs, no illness before the end, no regrets–is inevitably a very personal work, but also serves as a fascinating social history. From when they meet as milkman and parlour maid, through the Depression, second world war, childbirth (Briggs himself gets a particularly good cameo role in the sixties, replete with magnificent sideburns), old age and death, we see a world in rapid flux while Ethel and Earnest’s loving relationship remains resolutely stable. The drawings are characteristically tender–the scene when his dead mother lies on a hospital trolley is particularly moving–and the simple text gives more than a taste of these people and the times they lived through. Sentimental as well as engaging? Absolutely. But work like this gives sentimentality a good name. –Nick Wro

Book Description

Utterly original, deeply moving and very funny, Ethel & Ernest is the story of Raymond Brigg`s parents’ marriage, from their first chance encounter to their deaths told in Brigg`s unique strip-cartoon format. Nothing is invented, nothing embroidered – this is the reality of two decent, ordinary lives of two people who, as Briggs tells the story, become representative of us all. The book is also social history; we see the dark days of the Second World War, the birth of the Welfare State, the advent of television and all the changes which were so exhilarating and bewildering for Ethel and Ernest.

A marvellous, life-enhancing book for all ages.

This magical little book is a bout Raymond Briggs parents, how they met by chance right through to their deaths. I saw a piece on television about Raymond Briggs and it happened to mention this book. It’s a wonderful insight into a relationship which blossomed from a mistaken signal to a life of happiness. It starts with Ernest riding a bike through the streets and as he looks up he sees Ethel hanging out the window with a yellow duster, he thinks she’s waving at him and then waves back. This carries on all week until one day he doesn’t pass and Ethel thinks he’s forgotten only for him to turn up suited and booted with flowers asking for a date.

It shows what appears to be a brief courtship and Ethel leaving her job as a lady’s maid to become a married woman and so their lives begin. The journey is then split into decades spanning the important aspects of their lives; buying their first house, jobs, birth of Raymond,  the war, Raymond growing up leaving home and finally the death of Ethel shortly followed by Ernest, possibly due to a broken heart.

This made me laugh. the top one especially. Love the detail in the drawing.

What is lovely about this book is the fact it is set 50-60 years ago when all modern technology we use today like TV, fridge, cars, that we don’t think twice about were all new/novel ideas. And how Ernest would get excited at an electric fridge and how it would improve their lives. We have so much technology these days that reading this book, it made me feel their lives were much simpler, yes harder, due to it being more work, but less noise and not the need to be constantly using some form of technology, like checking our phones.

I also loved this book for how he portrayed his parents relationship. It was warm and caring, they stuck together through everything and came out stronger and would be lost without each other. After all it is a picture book and the amount of detail that has gone into the illustrations express more than what words can. Yes the words help the story along but the detail in the people’s faces the use of colour to express the mood is just amazing.

I highly recommend this book, not just because it’s Raymond Briggs, famous for The Snowman, but for the fact its an illustrated story and sometimes pictures can say and mean more than words.


Thank you for reading


This book wasn’t on my to read list, but I’m so glad to have read it.

Check this link for more images;


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