Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay Review


Publication: 1967
Publisher:  Penguin Classics
Pages:  208 pages
Source: Bookmobile
Genre: Fiction, Classics, Gothic, Australian Literature
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤

Where most books have a small disclaimer on the fiction of the novel readers are about to read, written just below the publication date and other nonsense no one bothers with, Picnic at Hanging Rock has a blank page with this:

“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 from their, I knew I’d love this book.

I can’t remember how exactly I became interested in reading Picnic at Hanging Rock. I know that someone I follow on Instagram posted a screenshot from the movie and spoke highly of it. Interested by the title, I decided to research it and found out that it was based off of a book, and knew I’d have to read the book before seeing the movie.

The plot of Picnic at Hanging Rock sounds simple enough. On Valentine’s Day in the year 1900, a group of girls who attend the Appleyard College for Young Ladies go on their annual picnic to Hanging Rock. While their, three senior girls, Miranda, Irma, and Marion, wish to explore the rock, and are never seen again.

As well as the plot of the missing girls, their are also a few subplots. One follows a young English boy vacationing in Australia, Michael Fitshubert, becomes obsessed with finding the girls since he was the last to see them alive. Another subplot follows the young boarder at Appleyard, Sara, who’s guardian is mysteriously absen. Overall, the story follows what happens to the people around the girls, and Appleyard itself, after the girls disappearances.

The mysterious atmosphere of the synopsis, as well as Lindsay’s opening disclaimer is what drew me into reading Picnic at Hanging Rock. Before the novel begins, Lindsay also includes a Character Personae of sorts which lists the characters in the novel and who they are or what their role in the story is.

Picnic at Hanging Rock is unlike any Gothic novel I’ve ever read. For one thing, the Gothic element is an outdoor landscape of rocks while most Gothic novels take place in an old house or mansion. The novel also doesn’t focus just on the three girls who disappeared, but everyone, even minutely, involved or intertwined in the girls lives and how their lives were affected by their disappearances. While I found the book to drag at some points, especially in description of setting, I really enjoyed the Australian setting since I don’t read many books by Australian authors or set in Australia.

It’s hard to write more about the book without giving too much away, so I’ll end here. Picnic at Hanging Rock is not your typical Gothic novel, or novel in general, and is a story that needs to be experienced, processed, and discussed  with others so that you too an try to unravel the mystery at Hanging Rock.


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