Wild Reading 06/07/20
Ethel & Ernest
Publisher: Vintage publishing
Ethel & Ernest tells the story of Raymond Briggs' parents, from 1928 to their deaths in the 70s - spanning a period of great social change for the country.
There's a lovely glow of nostalgia in this graphic novel, even if you weren't alive in all - or any - of the eras depicted.
The book shows that some change is necessary, that all things pass, while exposing a continuity that unites us all. We can relate to people simply trying to get through life with love and a gentle pragmatism. One day, it will be our turn to be Ethels and Ernests, and that message is beautiful and bittersweet.
But Ethel & Ernest is also incredibly funny, with wonderful dialogue. There's a black, deadpan comedy watching the duo figure out how to build a bunker or use a gas mask.
True, it is hard to forget the final image of Ethel on a hospital bed. But Briggs broaches grim themes with such a light, sweeping touch that although your eyes will mist up, you’ll wear a big, tender smile.