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.