The Importance Of Ernestine

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 10 Apr 2018

Member Reviews

Cecily Carter and Gwen Fairford both work in politics in the Australian capital and fall for men from the other side of the political fence. Cecily, who has her sights set on becoming an MP herself one day, is being mentored by John Worthing. She hopes her past as a foundling whose parents never came forward to claim her won’t thwart her plans. John is captivated by Gwen at a social function but strives to keep their romance a secret from his friend and her colleague, Alec Moncrieff. Meanwhile Alec, a slick political operator, is pushing forward with a foundation to help mothers with postnatal depression and becomes besotted with Cecily. Both men eventually get into trouble when they find it hard to keep their stories straight. 
This modern adaptation of one of my favourite plays, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, follows its social satire roots, with a cleverly woven plot and an air of farce. I really missed the presence of a true Lady Bracknell character though as Gwen’s domineering mother only played a bit role.
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3.5 quite entertaining Stars

I admit I requested this title from NetGalley primarily due to the title. I find [book:The Importance of Being Earnest|92303] by [author:Oscar Wilde|3565] thoroughly enjoyable to read or watch an adaptation, so a modern retelling set in Australia was a no-brainer for me to request. And may I just say how nice it was to read an Aussie-set story written by an Aussie. It seems like most I have read choose other locations to set their novels (I imagine that’s a me problem rather than an Aussie author’s problem). I thought the plot well woven. It stayed true to its inspiration, while weaving a clever tale set among Australia’s political scene. The only part that felt flat to me was the romances, which I would have preferred more finesse in their telling.

This story takes place primarily in Canberra. There are four main characters, and rather than chapters there is two acts, with sections that switch back and forth in POV between the four characters, John, Alec, Cecily and Gwen, POV, which were clearly marked. John and Alec are good friends, but they work for opposing parties and their friendship is not well known. John is friends with Cecily, who works on the same political side as John and is being mentored by him. Alec is Gwen’s boss, and they are friends to a certain degree. Gwen and Cecily meet and become good friends in this novel.

This book reveled in the absurdity, and the political scene provided proper subject matter:

It astonished John that he could still be astonished by politicians’ ability to trivialise the serious and give import to the trivial. Rather than attend an important meeting that related to her portfolio, Blakely was more worried about what type of stuffed dog to get. 

One thing with how the political scape was shown here was that it was done rather vaguely. There were two sides with neither being named and no stance on issues was given. I appreciated how well this worked, but it may be that an Aussie reader would find the lack of specificity disappointing. Not sure. 

I enjoyed the friendships in this one, particularly the female friendships and the support shown between the two main female characters. If you know Wilde’s play, you will expect moments of deception and confrontation, and this translated well here.

‘You’ve done nothing wrong,’ Gwen said in as soothing a voice as she could muster. ‘You’ve done nothing wrong and I’ve done nothing wrong. We let our hearts believe in men who were not worthy of them. They are the ones who are the villains here, not us.’  

And again:

‘Surely you can understand that I love her.’ ‘No, I don’t,’ Cecily said. ‘You don’t lie like that to the woman you love. You don’t play games with the woman you love. You don’t deceive the woman you love in order to get your own way. Your love was selfish and that makes it wrong.  

Another theme of the book was Post-Natal Depression (also known as Postpartum Depression) that was handled well with some poignant moments. It was important to the plot, and I don’t want to give any spoilers, so will just leave you with this moment that spoke to me:

 I thought I was a horrible person, who hated my child, who wasn't capable of being a mother. I thought I was unnatural. I thought there was something wrong with me and I hid it from everyone, even my husband, because I was scared that if they knew, they would desert me because who wants to be with someone not truly human?’  

This book had its poignant and funny moments. I chuckled a few times, but as I mentioned before, the romances were not as well done as the plot. They were not as well scripted and would gloss over and jump ahead without showing the reader the development. There was also some cruder word choices that felt out of place in this story fucking being chief among them. Ultimately, just like I wouldn’t read/watch [book:The Importance of Being Earnest|92303] for the romance, I would not recommend this for the romance but the intricate plot. It wasn’t perfect. There were some moments that needed smoothing out, but I was certainly pleasantly surprised in taking a chance on an unknown author. It captured my attention, and the author clearly understood her inspiration material.
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It's a book about the trivial being made too important but unfortunately the trivial takes over the story and isn't that interesting to read about.
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