03 May 2007

Book Review: Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

2007 TBR Challenge #4

Picnic at Hanging Rock On Valentine’s Day, 1900, a group set out from the exclusive Appleyard College for lunch by the towering rock formation known as Hanging Rock. Four girls leave the group and begin an ascent of the rocks. Only one returns, in hysterics, and a teacher is also discovered to be missing. The consequences of the ‘College Mystery’ fan out from the school, touching staff, boarders, and locals. Some of the results are happy, but others are fatal. As the investigation proceeds a few clues and witnesses are found, but these only raise more questions about a mystery that may never be solved.

This book, and the subsequent classic Australian movie, have generated a lot of speculation, due to the author’s deliberate vagueness as to whether it was based on a true story. It’s interesting to read the book and see the almost journalistic touches used to lend weight to the idea; excerpts from official statements, newspaper articles, even, at one point, a footnote. The fact the there are some loose ends also creates an air of verisimilitude; this is not a mystery novel, more a novel about a mystery. For the most part I didn’t mind the inconclusiveness, but I wondered if this was just because I’d seen the movie and so knew what to expect. If I hadn’t, and had been expecting some answers, I might have found it frustrating; and I am still puzzled by one thing that ought to have been impossible.

While not an exceptional novel, it was definitely worth reading; the ‘mysteriousness’ of Hanging Rock has firmly entrenched itself in Australian folklore thanks to the book and film, and it was good to see how it all started. The writing was very atmospheric and offered an interesting portrait of pre-Federation society. I recall reading somewhere that there was an extra chapter not included in the book, which offered an explanation of the disappearances; I might just have to Google it and see what I can find out.

Rating: B-


Grominou2 said...

I saw that movie as a teen and loved it! I did think it was loosely based on a true story, though... Didn't even know there was a book, I'll have to check that out.

I'm with you on the summer heat, although I do wish umbrellas would come back in style! To be carrying your own shade everywhere, neat!

CoversGirl said...

Umbrellas out of style? Not in Brisbane! It's common to see them here, though I can't recall them being popular in Canberra (probably because in Canberra you need the sun to warm you up!). I carry one with me everywhere and love having portabe shade.

Bookfool said...

It sounds kind of irritating to be left without all the answers but, goodness, I'm glad you answered the important one (not true). Thanks for that. :)

Grominou2 said...

Cool! Then maybe umbrellas will make a comeback up here in Canada as well!

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