Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
“Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction, my readers must decide for themselves. As the fateful picnic took place in the year nineteen hundred, and all the characters who appear in this book are long since dead, it hardly seems important.” And thus begins our story. It’s Valentine’s Day, 1900 in Australia’s bush country. The girls of Appleyard College for Young Ladies are off on an adventure to picnic and marvel at the geological wonder that is Hanging Rock. They are chaperoned by two of their teachers. All make it back to the college, much later than Mrs. Appleyard expected, except for Miranda, Irma, Marion, and Mrs. McCraw. What follows is the search for the girls but that’s not really what the book is about. It’s about how the tragedy affects those left behind: the teachers, the students, even two men who were on the Hanging Rock that day.
It’s the tone that makes this book so delicious. It’s eerie, haunting, and suggestive. As I write this review, it’s been over a week since I’ve finished the book and I cannot stop thinking about it. So much so, that I sought out and read analysis and criticisms and background information. I learned about the infamous 1974 movie and the recent (2018) series made for Prime Video. Of course, I watched both and WOW. I watched the series first (one season, six episodes). It is off-the-charts gorgeous - the locations (that house, omg), the costumes, the music. The acting is fantastic. I mostly liked the liberties taken with the story. I could see where the inspiration for the embellishments came from in the book (like the backstory for Mrs. Appleyard - so GOOD!). I then watched the original movie. It was so cool to see what I could instantly observe as iconic scenes like the girls in a line, tightening each others’ corsets, and Mrs. Appleyard addressing the assembled girls in front of the college before they set out for their picnic, filmed in the exact same manner in the streaming series. The Prime people gave plenty of other nods to the original and they were such fun to notice. The Australia Writer’s Guild calls the Picnic at Hanging Rock “Australia’s most loved movie.” It has a 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I can see why. I’ve never seen anything like it and I know I’ll continue to keep thinking about the story for a long time.
Compare the trailers:
I never would have discovered this story if it wasn’t for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club. Recently, I left the book club of which I was a member for six years because I wasn’t being challenged by the book choices. I’ve only been a (paying) member of MMD BC for a few months but I’ve already been exposed to so much literature I wouldn’t have sought out on my own. Being a member of a book club that stimulates you is so important for a fulfilling reading life!
Jaguar readers, FZW Library does not own this one but the public library does. Let your lit librarians know if you need help accessing it!