Ethel & Ernest

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Ethel & Ernest
Ethel and Ernest Book Cover.jpg
Cover to 1999 Hardcover edition
Author Raymond Briggs
Illustrator Raymond Briggs
Country England
Language English
Genre Graphic Novel
Publisher Jonathan Cape
Publication date
7 October 1998
Media type Hardback
ISBN 0-224-06039-2
OCLC 41620728

Ethel & Ernest (subtitled "A True Story") is a graphic novel and animated film by English author and illustrator Raymond Briggs. It tells the story of the lives of Briggs' parents from their first meeting in 1928 to their deaths in 1971.


The story is a chronological progression through poignant moments in the home lives of the titular couple, from when they first meet in 1928 to their deaths in 1971. The tone of the novel is quite sad, and human miscommunication is a central theme, interspersed with moments of humour. Ethel, at first a lady's maid, with middle-class aspirations and firm notions of respectable behaviour, becomes a housewife when she marries and a clerk in an office during the Second World War. Ernest, five years younger, is an easygoing milkman with socialist ideals and an enthusiastic interest in current affairs and the latest technology. They raise their son, Raymond, living in the same terraced house for 40 years, in a suburban street that could be anywhere in Britain, through the Great Depression, World War II, the advent of television and other events.

The book illustrates British working-class life and concerns, during some key social and political developments of the 20th century.[1] The story highlights the generation gap between Raymond as a grammar-school boy, then art student and art teacher, and his parents whose world is much more confined. Long hair and wine are symbols of the generation gap. The plot also highlights the gender gap between Ernest's male experience of paid work and consumerism, and Ethel's unpaid domestic labour. She is shown to be the more quirky character but also the one who becomes emotionally overwrought, distraught, for example, when her five-year-old must be evacuated during the war and again when he is brought home by the police as a teenager for petty theft. No visiting friends or family holidays are portrayed; we do not follow Raymond to school or college; the focus is on the home and the three family members who live in it. The house is effectively a fourth main character in the novel, its interior developing with the characters and reflecting shifts in the historical era, as well as the founding of a family, its growth and its eventual disintegration.


Ethel & Ernest won the "Best Illustrated Book of the Year" at the 1999 British Book Awards.[2]

Film adaptation[edit]

The book was adapted into the feature-length hand-drawn animated film Ethel & Ernest, voiced by Brenda Blethyn, Jim Broadbent and others. It was premiered at the London Film Festival on 15 October 2016, had a cinema release starting on 28 October 2016, and was broadcast on BBC television on BBC One at 7:30pm on 28 December 2016.[3] It had its North American premiere at the 2017 Palm Springs International Film Festival by its US distributors, and was chosen by an audience vote to be screened in the "Best of the Fest" on the final day.[4]

It featured the Paul McCartney song, In The Blink of an Eye[5].


  1. ^ "Ethel & Ernest" (review), Publishers Weekly, 30 August 1999.
  2. ^ British Book Awards - previous winners Archived 5 April 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ "Ethel & Ernest". BBC iPlayer. Retrieved 29 December 2016.
  4. ^ "Ethel & Ernest chosen on the audience vote for Palm Springs International Film Festival".
  5. ^ Macca And Creation In The Backyard (2016-10-28), Paul McCartney - In The Blink of an Eye (2016), retrieved 2018-03-12