This could be good or very, very bad, but with Jim Broadbent and Brenda Blethyn providing voices, I am somewhat reassured!
What can I say about this book? I first read it at Westmount Library in 2004 or so, and wept through the ending; even now I can hardly read the Amazon review without tearing up. Briggs' book follows his parents' lives from their courtship in 1928 to their deaths, weeks apart, in the early 1970s. They marry, have their son, send him away during the war, build a bomb shelter in their yard, argue about politics, and weather political and cultural upheaval in Britain. What is so deeply moving about the book is their closeness: although Ernest is an unabashed Socialist and Ethel a cynical Tory, their love for each other, their son, and the sense that they are "in things together," for life, is palpable.
I hesitate to say that they are great examples of a certain type of mid-century Briton, since that is so reductive and condescending, but they are - their experiences are universal, in a way, a part of England's history. Their lives are not dissimilar to those of my paternal grandparents, really; reading this made me feel closer to them.
Ethel and Ernest will capture your heart.