|Isn't this edition purdy?!|
Picnic at Hanging Rock is an iconic Australian story. The disappearance of three girls and one woman from a “civilised” picnic into the mysterious Hanging Rock plays on the worst fears of the landscape that are ingrained in the Australian psyche, which is why I think it has become such a classic. The tension between the European settlers and the harsh Australian bush depicted in the story is central to our cultural heritage. It’s an important story, so it makes me cringe to admit that I didn’t love it.
I’ve always been fascinated by the central mystery itself, but this book is less about the actual disappearance of the girls and more about the effects the event has on those connected. It was interesting to see the “ripples” come into play, although it sometimes took a while to get there. I found the beginning quite good and the ending great, but the whole middle section was pretty tedious for me. I’m not sure if it’s because I knew what was going to happen (or rather, what wasn’t going to happen), but I just wasn’t compelled to pick it up. In fact, I kind of dreaded it, because every time I did, I’d get two pages in before I started to do this:
Maybe it’s the magic of Hanging Rock, which makes anyone who comes into contact with it sleepy and delirious. Maybe it's just a boring book. It doesn’t help that it’s more character than plot focused, when many of the characters are two-dimensional stereotypes. There’s the perfect, pretty, popular girl; the fat, ugly, dunce; the strict and frugal headmistress; the pretty young French governess… none of these characters had any real depth, and I didn’t particularly care about any of them.
What I did love was the vivid imagery and evocative atmosphere, which was by turns dream-like and oppressive. The contrast between the open and uncontrollable Hanging Rock and the repressive, closed-in boarding school is powerful. Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to make me really enjoy Picnic at Hanging Rock. Am I going to be kicked out of the country now?
Spoilery Talking Points
- I thought I desperately wanted to know what really happened to the girls, so I looked up The Secret of Hanging Rock. I think the editors were right to leave out the last chapter. Because it's kinda effed up, and not in a good way. Keeping the mystery, well, mysterious, makes the story so much stronger.
- Maybe this is me being stupid again, but I was unsure whether Sara committed suicide or was murdered by the headmistress.
- I also couldn't figure out why Michael suddenly went off Irma, considering how well they were getting on. He seemed to just drop it without any real explanation. Weird.
It was impossible to get the images of the actors from the movie out of my head.
Published: Viking, 2012 (first published 1967)
Get It: Fishpond