Picnic At Hanging Rock – Joan Lindsay

It has been my aim to read more classics this year and I’m ashamed to admit this is only my second so far. Picnic At Hanging Rock was a great second choice being a fairly short read full of mystery and intrigue. For those of you who don’t know Picnic At Hanging Rock is a tale set in Australia in 1900 of a group of girls and their teachers from a school for young ladies who set out for a picnic on Valentine’s Day. A day that is meant to be full of fun and adventure but ends with three girls and a teacher missing. What happened? Where did they go? When searches of the area, scent hounds and trackers are unable to find a trace of the girls all seems lost. Until one week later one of the girls mysteriously reappears unscathed but with no memory of the experience. The book follows there events and the fallout from the disappearances and the effects it has on those directly and indirectly linked to that fateful day at Hanging Rock.

 

Fun fact Hanging Rock is a real place located in the Macedon Ranges in Victoria, South Australia, a place now on my list to visit. Looks like some stunning outback scenery! The movie based on the book is one of those movies that is screened once a year on free-to-air Australian television so over the years I had caught scenes of the movie here and there. Thankfully not enough to glean much about the plot beyond the mysterious disappearance. The less you know going in, the better really. I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery of the novel. The book really was an unsolved mystery that drew a lot of attention when it was written thanks to the passage written by Lindsay preceding the novel.

Whether Picnic At Hanging Rock is fact of fiction, my readers must decide for themselves. As the fateful picnic took place in the year nineteen hundred, and all the characters who appear in his book are long since dead, it hardly seems important.

For years people were obsessed with trying to figure out if the story was based on true events or not (spoiler: it is not but there are some interesting stories about the author herself). Coupled with the obvious mystery that is never solved in the book unsurprisingly this book has been much discussed in the years since it has been published. One book was even published with five plausible yet contradicting explanations for what could have gone on out at the Rock that day.

 

There are a multitude of characters in the book, all unique characters from different backgrounds. Each playing their role in the story. One review of the book I read (scathingly) mentioned how the “good” characters were all beautiful and physically appealing and all the “bad” characters were all ugly and fat, which I found quite interesting upon reflection. I think this fairly accurate but I didn’t think of it as a negative aspect of the book. These obvious manifestations and the tone in which the book is written match the style of the book coupled with the age that the book was set in.

 

While most of the book plods along at a steady pace the last couple of chapters of the book really pick up with some bombshells blowing up the story finishing in a dramatic climax. There is a lot left unsaid at the end of the book with the reader left to draw their own conclusions about a number of mysteries. Personally I loved this aspect of it as it left me contemplative and thinking of the book long after I closed and put it down. As mentioned it is never revealed what happened to the girls and their teacher in the book, however, there is a final chapter published separately after the death of the author. It was initially written as a full book but the last chapter was cut at the publishers request. Full of curiosity after I finished the book I sought out this last chapters and read it. For me I think the book works better without it and I didn’t enjoy finding out what really happened.

 

I realise this isn’t a typical review as I have spoken more about the background information of the book rather than the content of the book itself. I hope my tidbits of information have encouraged you to give it a go. I think the magic of this book is in having as little expectation and understanding of the plot and discovering it all for yourself as it happens. Overall I give Picnic At Hanging Rock three hearts of St Valentine, for each of the missing girls and urge you to acquaint yourself with this captivating mystery.

 

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