A group of girls at a boarding school in rural Victoria go for a picnic to Hanging Rock on Valentine's Day 1900, some never to return. Joan Lindsay toys with us from the very outset:
Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction, my readers must decide for themselves.
Most of the book is actually the time after the picnic, after the disappearances. The rumours, the speculation, the gossip, the fallout from a single day. All written in a wonderful way, a beautiful Edwardian language, with a tremendous sense of humour and fun.
The boarders at Mrs Appleyard's College for Young Ladies had been up and scanning the bright unclouded sky since six o'clock and were now fluttering about in their holiday muslins like a flock of excited butterflies.
A pasty-faced fourteen-year-old with the contours of an overstuffed bolster was standing a few feet away, staring up at the window of a room on the first floor.
I can certainly see why Picnic at Hanging Rock made it into the top 10 Aussie Books You Should Read Before You Die. It's a stonking good read. It's historical fiction, it's a mystery, it's a character study, it's incredibly descriptive. Often lyrical.
And there was God Himself in a red and blue glass window- a terrifying old man rather like his grandfather, the Earl of Haddingham, sitting on a cloud and interfering with everyone down below. Punishing the wicked, caring for the sparrows fallen from their nests in the park, keeping an eye on the Royal Family in their various palaces, saving- or allowing to be shipwrecked according to whim- 'Those In Peril On The Sea'... Finding and Saving, or allowing to perish, the lost schoolgirls on the Hanging Rock.
I will look forward to rereading this one. And watching the movie for the first time this century. I wonder why it isn't on tv terribly often? But first I'm going to search out the mysterious Chapter 18, the unpublished final chapter and read that too.