Sunday, October 15, 2017

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay: A Review and Winner of Giveaway Announced

As I said in my previous post about Picnic at Hanging Rock, this novel came out of nowhere for me, and after a quick search on the internet, I was intrigued not only by the novel, but by the author, Joan Lindsay. 

Joan Lindsay wrote this book in 1967, when she was 70 years old.  Her first novel.  It became an instant hit.  The tale is simple, but as any simple tales go, there's a lot going on underneath the surface.  It's February 14, 1900.  The young ladies at Appleyard College for Young Ladies in Australia are eager to take a day trip to Hanging Rock, a place ideal for picnics and taking in some fresh air and nature.  The group, with Miss McGraw, the mathematics teacher, and Mademoiselle De Poitiers, the popular French teacher as chaperones, take the three hour carriage ride out to Hanging Rock.  The plan is to eat lunch, rest, explore a bit (as much as you can in gloves and corsets), and return to Appleyard at 4 PM.  Other folks are also there picnicking: Michael Fitzhubert, visiting from England; Albert Crundall, the coachman for Michael's Aunt and Uncle; and Mr. Ben Hussey, the carriage driver.  

Miranda is a senior, and the most popular girl at Appleyard.  She decides to climb Hanging Rock, and takes along Irma, Marion, and Edith.  The girls are seen crossing a creek by Michael and Albert, and then simply disappear.  Edith appears later, screaming, hysterical.  She can't tell anyone what happened, and no one can find the three missing girls.  Oddly enough, Miss McGraw is missing, too.  Searches, questions, theories abound.  Michael is haunted, and decides to travel back to Hanging Rock to try and find something, anything to answer his questions.  Miraculously, he finds Irma weeks after the incident, but in mysterious circumstances and unconscious. The other two girls and Miss McGraw are never seen again; nor is any trace of them ever found.  They have simply disappeared into thin air. 

From this dark day, the story moves on to how the disappearances change everyone who is touched by them: the students at Appleyard, the Headmistress of Appleyard, the teachers, Michael and Albert.  It's a pretty interesting ending; a bit of a shock to me.  According to the foreword, Joan Lindsay had written an ending that explained exactly what happened to the girls, but it was so "out there" (my words) that the publisher had her cut it.  There are hints of strangeness, and it's left up to readers to decide for themselves what may have happened to the girls on that lovely summer day.  Joan Lindsay herself claimed that the story may or may not be true, and plenty of folks have searched for information over the decades, but have found nothing.  

I'm intrigued enough to have placed  a hold on the movie at my local library. I can't wait to watch it.  

A huge thank you to Penguin/Random House for providing a copy not only for my review, but a copy to give away to a lucky reader.  And the winner of the giveaway is...

Thank you to all who entered the contest.  I am very glad I had the opportunity to read this classic novel, and I think it would make a very good book club discussion--or even better, a classroom discussion.  Just goes to show, any book you haven't read (even one 50 years old!) is new if you haven't read it yet.

Rating:  4/6 for a novel that has  a lot to offer towards discussion.  What is it about this tale that has stood the test of time?  Fascinating!

Available in paperback and ebook. 

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