It’s the book that has fascinated Australian readers for years and why did it take me so long to get to it? Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay is a masterpiece. Thanks to its vague descriptions but formal writing style (as if it’s a collection of documents), the novel is full of sensation, suspense and tears resulting from feels. The novel also taps on feminism, look out for recurring motifs including loose corsets and discipline, and also Australia being a representation of wildness and a nightmare to the British.
Picnic at Hanging Rock follows a group of Appleyard College schoolgirls on an excursion to the famous Hanging Rock in rural Victoria (it’s a real place by the way), St. Valentine’s Day 1900. Three schoolgirls and a governess mysteriously disappear during a walk on their own – only one of the party returns in hysterics and becomes one of the few (but unreliable) links to solving the mystery. The disappearance causes a disturbance in the community as well as gossip – rumours ranging from murder to rape to accidental death.
The disappearance also puts pressure on the headmistress Mrs. Appleyard and a series of mysterious events develops, casting some sort of curse on Appleyard College and its inhabitants. Eventually one of the missing girls is found alive but unable to remember what happened at the Hanging Rock…
Picnic at Hanging Rock plays on the reader’s perception, their belief that the story is real (it’s ambiguous but there are clues that say that the events are fictional…oops spoiler alert), their concern for the missing characters and desire to know what happens – will they find all of the girls and the governess? Is there a supernatural element or cause to the disappearance? (that’s how I read it and like to believe)
Find out for yourself. It will leave you on the edge of your seat and stare at the last page for a while and go: