Sunday, February 21, 2016

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Picnic at Hanging Rock, by Joan Lindsay

Summer in 1900 -- Valentine's Day, in fact -- and the students at Appleyard College for Young Ladies are going on a picnic.  Hanging Rock is a lovely setting for a day out.  Four girls--three confident and pretty seniors, and one 14-year-old hanger-on--decide to climb up a little way into the wilderness.  When only one returns, hysterical, and a math teacher is also found to be missing, a search is started, but there is no sign of any of them.  Days later, a young man bent on one last search finds one of the girls, but no one else is ever seen again.

This is a mysterious story that describes the ever-widening ripples of events caused by the girls' disappearance.

For the most part, I liked Picnic at Hanging Rock quite a bit.  It's a good novel, written in the late 1960s and also made into a film in the 70s, apparently a fairly well-known one.  (In fact, the back-cover blurbs highlight the film, quoting Lena Dunham of all people.  Odd.)  It's a modern classic of Australian literature.

I was a bit exasperated by one element of the novel.  No one who climbs up to the Rock can remember a thing about what happened to them.  The young girl, the older girl, the young man--they all suffer from amnesia about whatever they went through.  I thought that was asking a bit much of my suspension of disbelief.  There's another spot where the author deliberately draws attention to a detail, announces that it is very important, and then never resolves it; I suppose because the mystery is never resolved, but then why do that?

A good choice if you like slightly spooky tales, unsolved mysteries, or are looking to read something Australian.


Kailana said...

I hate when books leave you hanging... Especially if there is a big build up. They take the time, at least conclude in some way you feel like you were satisfied!

Anonymous said...

I found the it well...forgettable. Also while it dramatized the actual incident, it did not offer any explanation and while it drew attention the after effects, I did not really find the book very satisfying. Left me feeling Meh!