Page 45 Review by Stephen
In this exceptional piece of British social history Briggs chronicles the life of his parents, from their chance encounter in 1928, through decades of change (wartime, decimalization, nationalisation, transportation, television and a wave of other new household appliances), to their deaths just one year apart.
"Both simple and complex, emotional and dispassionate," wrote The Guardian and, yes, I'd be hard-pressed to conjure up another title whose power to move matches this masterpiece of honesty, clarity and tenderness. This is also an extraordinary social document, chronicling not just the changes but how his parents reacted to them, occasionally with resistance, sometimes enthusiasm and quite often with total bewilderment. They certainly haven't been white-washed to make them anything other than true representatives of their particular class and generation.
"ETHEL & ERNEST has an historical sweep and a sure command of social detail not often found in contemporary fiction," wrote the Daily Telegraph and I couldn't agree more - apart from the implication that it's fiction!
Particularly powerful is the way that, following the day of his mother, the panels loom larger and larger: his father alone in all that space. And then when his father finally dies on a random day, the cat simply saunters out the door
This served as a Christmas present to five of my relatives this year, all of whom declared that it was their parents, provoking memories long-forgotten. Recommended to all.
And it's not often you can say that of any piece of art, is it?
Also by Briggs and reviewed by us: WHEN THE WIND BLOWS and GENTLEMAN JIM.