Ethel & Ernest
Ethel & Ernest
by Raymond Briggs
1999; Alfred Knopf; 104 pages

This graphic memoir is one of the single most touching and heartfelt works ever produced in comics form. .  The story of the author's parents and, beginning about half way in, the author's own as well, Ethel & Ernest presents a beautiful miniature of a couple's life together that is at the same time a definitive tale of 20th Century working class Britain.  Yes, the book is not free from sentimentality, but has anyone ever produced a work about one's own parents that is? and not only that, the sentiment in Ethel & Ernest is of the highest order. The only work produced in comics that is even remotely comparable to this is Will Eisner's late work, especially A Contract With God.  It is a sturdy work that is built to last; capable of being enjoyed over and over again.

Raymond Briggs is one of the most widely acclaimed children's book authors in Britain.  His most famous book, The Snowman, has been adapted as a half-hour television special which occupies roughly the same spot in the British national consciousness as A Charlie Brown Christmas does in the American.

While there are dozens if not hundreds of interesting and worthwhile autobiographical comics currently on the market, the vast majority are produced by people in their twenties and thirties.  Raymond Briggs is in his sixties, and Ethel and Ernest offers us the benefits of his maturity: artistic, intellectual, emotional and philosophical.  It is an offer well worth accepting.

Here are reviews from Salon and Rational Magic.

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