I’ve never seen the film adaptation of Picnic At Hanging Rock, but the trailers for the new BBC series piqued my interest and so I thought it high time I read this classic tale of mystery….I don’t know what I was expecting, but whatever it was, it wasn’t this.
Back in 1900, most of the pupils of a stuffy Australian girl’s boarding school are going on a picnic to a local beauty spot, Hanging Rock. While there, a small group of girls decides to go for a walk. One of them returns later, hysterical and alone, and unable to tell anyone where the other girls have gone. Days later, another of the girls is found unconscious by a local man, but again is unable to tell anyone anything about what happened to her and her friends.
Meanwhile, at the boarding school, life is even less fun than before. Talking about the missing girls is banned – soon, just talking in general is also disallowed – as the Headmistress seeks to contain the scandal, all while also starting a campaign to rid herself of one of the school’s poorest students.
Despite the mystery of the disappearance of the girls, the book didn’t really make much of it, preferring instead to concentrate on the characters surrounding the disappearance. However even here I didn’t feel there was much real development – it’s just accepted that both the shockingly idiotic Edith (the first girl to return) and the apparently amnesiac Irma have no answers to give, and so instead we’re left to concentrate on the mooching around of Mike – the man who finds Irma – and the bullying of hapless pupil Sara Waybourne by the Headmistress.
There are hints that there may be something supernatural at work, affecting everyone who was connected to the day at Hanging Rock, but again this was all rather vague and so I was left feeling pretty nonplussed by it all.