Ah… memories! Not mine, because I wasn’t a reader of the Maidstone Borough News or Maidstone Star in the second half of the 1980s, but memories nonetheless. The Suttons was a newspaper strip published in those titles between 1985 and 1991, created by Phil Elliott, and this is a collection of the whole lot.
Myself, I’m a fan of newspaper strips. Three or four panels of delightful humour, they can be a real tonic, or they were back in the day, anyway. I used to have tons of collections, from Andy Capp to Bloom County, although I never liked Hagar The Horrible. They could be full of wisdom or just stupid, mostly falling somewhere in the middle, and The Suttons sits comfortably at that table.
Firstly, I should say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading this collection, which has loads of strips and is printed on great quality paper. It’s one of those books that I didn’t laugh out loud too many times reading, but I definitely smiled. A lot. The snapshots of Julie and Dave’s lives are often charming, frequently amusing and, most of all, like a warm literary blanket, best read in front of a real fire with a cup of cocoa.
The overal tone is grown up, as it deals with adult lives, but it’s all totally unoffensive. The humour is in the vein of The Gambols or The Perishers, mixed with George and Lynn but without the gratuitous nudity (heaven forbid). It’s terriblty English, and you don’t come away having learnt any universal truths, but what you do come away with is a real fondness for the characters – you hope that in the last thirty years things have gone great and te Sutton’s are still in love and playinhg with their grandchildren. That’s the best thing about this collection – it makes you care.
And smile, don’t forget the smiling.
I think you know if you’re the type to want to pick this sort of thing up. It helps if you remember the era, and that you like newspaper strips. If you’re on the fence, I’d wholeheartedly say go for it. A near perfect slice of mid to late 1980s middle class life, The Suttons has matured gracefully and is a great addition to any collection.
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