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Picnic at Hanging Rock

December 3, 2009

So last night I read Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay (1967). I thought it would at least take me a week to read, but apparently it only took me six hours (with a break to pick up, make and eat dinner). I’ve had this book on my ‘to read’ list for years and finally bought it a few months ago – but never ended up with the time t read it before now! I remember seeing the film version (directed by Peter Weir, 1975) as a kid and I studied it in a film class last year, which encouraged me even more to read this book.

The basic plot of Hanging Rock is as follows: a group of Victorian school girls go on a picnic with two governesses to Hanging Rock. Four off the girls go on a walk to the Rock. Three are ‘lost’ there but one returns. It is later discovered one of the governesses also disappeared at this time. A week or so later (time is very precisely tracked in the text) one of the lost girls is found. But there is still mystery as no answers are given to what happened on the rock, or where the other lost women are now.

Hanging Rock is set in the natural landscape of Victoria at the actual place known as Hanging Rock. The book takes us back to 1900, before Federation, at a time when young ladies still spent time at boarding schools learning lady-like ‘stuff’ (like art and dance and embroidery). The dress and manners of the characters are straight out of Victorian England, but infused with elements of the growing Australian identity.

The landscape itself is very much a character in this book. Having grown up in Australia (and having seen the film) it was extremely easy for me to picture the world in which Hanging Rock takes place. However, if you have not seen the film (which I believe is incredibly faithful to the text), therecently released Where the Wild Things Are is also filmed in a similar locale as this book is set.

Beginning on February 14th 1900, the story relies a lot on the theme of love and human relationships. Who loves who and how do they love them? What type of relationship do certain characters have with each other and the other people around them?

The eeriness of this book is overwhelming. I thought it was powerful in the film and it is stronger in the book (God bless the imagination!)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Yuki permalink
    December 3, 2009 5:50 pm

    I jsut saw me blog in ur blog…coolies~~~
    u rock~~
    i might go photo crazy on Christmas Day Party…hehehehe..bear with me

    • December 3, 2009 8:26 pm

      I certainly hope you go photo crazy!!! You know I’ll at least be whipping out my iPhone for dodgy photos 😉

  2. December 12, 2009 6:27 am

    I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this book before!

    I also just wanted to pop over and thank you for entering my calendar giveaway over at Daddylikey. We’ve still got a few left if you’re keen (cough, shameless self-promotion, cough) 😉

    • December 12, 2009 1:51 pm

      I’m totally interested in then but my purse isn’t (or more precisily, my credit card isn’t!) But there’s hope yet as I did forward the link to family members as part of my list of subtle hints (God bless email hints)

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