sometimes witty book reviews
A surprising number of human beings are without purpose, though it is probable that they are performing some function unknown to themselves.
Title: Picnic at Hanging Rock
Author/Year: Joan Lindsey, 1968
Found: Shelf at home
Read time: A week
On Valentine’s Day, 1900, a party of young ladies and their chaperones set out for a day trip to Hanging Rock. A well-known tourist attraction in the Victorian (Australia) bush, everything seemed set for a jolly day of merry making. The Rock, however, had different plans.
By mid-afternoon, five of the girls have wandered off for a better look at the rocks. Within an hour they are lost and disorientated. Frightened, one girl runs back to the group – screaming. On her return journey – she sees one of the teachers in her underwear and far away in the distance. Hard to miss, even when running full-pelt and screaming, because the starch white and multiple layers of undergarments would have been like a beacon in the unforgivable Australian sun. Though a search party was sent out immediately, only one girl was found – alive – three days later. She never remembered anything. Three students and their teacher were never seen again.
The thrilling part of this tale is it’s basis in fact. Even today, the mystery of the Picnic of Hanging Rock has never been solved and no bodies have ever been recovered. Lindsay does not offer a solution to the puzzle but rather focuses on fictionalised accounts of the students, teachers and townsfolk. Some fantastic descriptions of characters and settings played well into the script of the iconic 1975 film of the same name.
Though the dialogue is sometimes slow and the imagery of bush-land Australia sometimes a touch repetitive, Lindsay a talent for people-writing that ensures this tale will remain a classic for decades yet.
Reading suggestion: Listen to this theme song while reading the spooky chapters.