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76 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting and enigmatic tale
Having seen Peter Weir's film before reading Joan Lindsay's novel it is difficult for me to review the book without referring to the film. The film leaves out some details from the novel but both convey the same sense of beauty, horror and loss, longing and haunting. We are told on the book's cover that the story is based around a St Valentine's day picnic in 1900, and...
Published on 28 Feb 2001

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed the beginning and the end of this book but ...
I enjoyed the beginning and the end of this book but I felt that it lost its way in the middle. The tension slackened a little and I was left wondering where it was going to go. There were some really well written scenes but not enough to keep the reader interested throughout.
Published 5 days ago by Kath Page


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76 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting and enigmatic tale, 28 Feb 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Picnic At Hanging Rock (Paperback)
Having seen Peter Weir's film before reading Joan Lindsay's novel it is difficult for me to review the book without referring to the film. The film leaves out some details from the novel but both convey the same sense of beauty, horror and loss, longing and haunting. We are told on the book's cover that the story is based around a St Valentine's day picnic in 1900, and the disappearance of some of the picnic party.
Picnic at Hanging Rock is Joan Lindsay's only work of fiction, although its many themes are firmly based on reality. The story covers the loss of youth, beauty and innocence; love and sexuality; discrimination, prejudice and class privilege; fear, passion and the breakdown of order; the English Empire in a foreign environment, the clash of alien cultures, and the end of an era; beliefs and life's purpose; life's myriad web and coincidences; destiny and fate; and Time itself, reflected in Miranda's favourite quote "Everything begins and ends at exactly the right time and place".
Joan Lindsay's descriptions of the Australian bush and wildlife are as evocative as Russell Boyd's cinematography. The style and language of her writing is deliberate to emulate turn-of-the 20th century writers.
The girls images were already imprinted on my mind when I read the book and the casting in the film seemed to me perfect, especially that of Anne Louise Lambert as Miranda and Karen Robson as Irma. Joan Lindsay described Mademoiselle Dianne de Poitiers, the French teacher and the girls' confidante, as having blond hair, yet the casting of the excellent Helen Morse was inspired.
Joan Lindsay describes Miranda as a Botticelli Angel from the Galleria Degli Uffizi in Florence, and Peter Weir specifically uses the image of the birth of Venus. Miranda is all knowing and shows compassion to Sara and Edith the least popular girl's at the school. Anne Louise Lambert's portrayal of Miranda with her ethereal beauty and enigmatic smile captures the vision perfectly, and is reminiscent of the knowing smile on the death mask of the famous "L'Inconnue de la Seine", who coincidentally died around 1900 in Paris.
The story's many strands are reflected by the girl's layers of virginal white dress representing suppression and restriction, with gloves, stockings and shoes being shed by the more enlightened girls on their ascent of the rock. Peter Weir used several techniques to convey the many layers of the story including shots into mirrors as into another dimension.
Joan Lindsay made a literary mistake which Cliff Green repeated in the film script - Felicia Hemanes' famous Victorian recital piece is "Casabianca" (about the Battle of The Nile), and not "The Wreck of the Hesperus" (the captain ties his daughter to the mast to save her from the storm which eventually sinks the ship) which is by Henry Longfellow. Discrimination is shown by Mrs Appleyard against Sara (an orphan) who is punished for not learning the poem, by being kept back from the picnic, whereas clearly Irma cannot remember it (on the picnic she can only quote the first line) but her family's wealth and her position as heiress obviously carry influence.
The importance of time and place are shown in that Joan Lindsay based the location of her story on Hanging Rock near mount Macedon in Victoria, which is a sacred Aboriginal site. To provide added authenticity Peter Weir filmed at the rock during the same six weeks of summer. Aboriginals believe time is not linear and Joan Lindsay refused to have clocks in her home, hence the title of her autobiography "Time Without Clocks". At Hanging Rock both Mr Hussey's and Miss McCraw's watches stopped at twelve o'clock. 14 February 1900 actually fell on a Wednesday, not a Saturday, unless Joan Lindsay used the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian, so that the eleven days were not lost? The open endedness of the novel is deliberate to mirror life where we may learn or uncover some secrets but never understand the mystery. Plenty of clues and coincidences are related, together with unexplained details such as the absence of scratches to Irma's bare feet, yet identical injuries appear on her and Michael's heads, very reminiscent of the X-Files.
This is a very thought provoking and inspiring story that will haunt you. I find the book and the film compliment each other exceptionally well, so if you haven't already done so I urge you to also seek out the film.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderfully Evocative Tale, 6 Oct 2007
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A Reader (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Picnic At Hanging Rock (Paperback)
"An elegantly written novel that deserves the status of a classic...the film is lyrical and beautiful, but don't think that simply because you've seen the film you will be wasting your time reading the book. The book is rich in detail and provides greater depth to the story. The producers of the film were blessed with such wonderful source material - and it's obvious they took considerable advantage of this. Joan Lindsay's writing is as beautiful and enigmatic as her heroine Miranda. A truly sublime reading experience. Rarely have a book and film complimented each other so well."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Mundane Tragedy, 17 Dec 2010
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S. G. Raggett (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Picnic At Hanging Rock (Paperback)
This novel has a pleasant relaxed narrative style that, although it was written little more than forty years ago would never now be allowed through modern creative writing filters. Some of the best scenes are related from the view point of a detached third party narrator, with a good feeling for the ambience of Appleyard's College, the surrounding landscape and the numinous Hanging Rock. The book tends to emphasise the divorce of the staff and girls from the vibrant natural world around them, whereas the better known film is more suggestive of personal repression. The narrative approach avoids the difficulties that might have come from being confined to the thought processes of mainly young minds. When this book was turned into a much more renowned film in 1979, it was widely thought to be based on a real disappearance. This idea is now ridiculed. However, it does not take many clicks of the browser to show aspects of the area's background that hint a a more mundane tragedy that some might prefer forgotten. As for faults, the writing is less sure footed with reported speech than narrative accounts, and attempts to convey the servants etc. associated with the story, particularly in speech, are a bit clunky.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating But Flawed, 24 Nov 2009
By 
F. S. L'hoir (Irvine, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Picnic At Hanging Rock (Paperback)
I read somewhere that the editors advised Joan Lindsay to cut the last chapter in which she had solved her mystery of the fictional schoolgirls who vanish on St. Valentine's Day in 1900 Victoria, Australia at the brooding Hanging Rock. Whether this report is apocryphal or not, I do not know, and I am conflicted about the disturbing ending, or lack of it. On the one hand, it leaves the reader pondering possible solutions. On the other hand, it seems unsatisfactory, since one has come to care for the well-delineated characters of the girls--especially Miranda and Sara--and the young men--Michael and Albert, as well as the governess, Mademoiselle, whom we discover mid-book is the namesake of that historical figure of courtly love, Dianne de Poitiers.

Perhaps much of the disappointment comes from the fact that Miss Lindsay relates her tail in compelling prose that captivates the reader until the end, and then the end does not come.

One of the reasons I read the book was to clarify some of the omissions in the Criterion Collection DVD, which were present in the original screen version (which I loved), such as the fate of Miss McCraw, the Maths governess. I felt justified that this cut from the NTSC version was indeed in the book.

Despite the troubling ending, which leaves the reader with dozens of unanswered questions, the book is well worth reading. And even though one might find the beginning a bit slow, one will soon be mesmerised and find it difficult to put the book down. One can easily discern traces of of the subtle magic that Peter Weir captured so brilliantly in the movie's original screen version.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like The Blair Witch's Big Brother., 1 Oct 2000
By A Customer
Picnic at Hanging Rock is the type of book that makes the reader completely lose track of time, in the race to discover the fate of the girls. Set in the early 1900's, the book is the chilling story of a group of girls and their teacher who mysteriously vanish during a St Valentines Day picnic. The book is apparently based upon real events which happened at Hanging Rock at the beginning of the 20th Century. I discovered the book after seeing the motion picture, and have since rad the book many times. It is very similar to The Blair Witch Project, in that there is no explanation as to what happened to the girls or the maths mistress. There are several subplots running through the novel, which add greatly to the depth and realism of the book. Especially fascinating is the subplot featuring Sarah, a 'charity' pupil at the school. The climax to Sarahs story within the book comes as a complete surprise, and will make you want to immediately reread the book in the search for clues! Definitely worth a read, especially for horror fans. A disturbing tale which will keep you guessing till the very end.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars tantalizing like a fleeting glimpse, 7 Sep 2009
By 
J. R. P. Wigman "Hans Wigman" (Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Picnic At Hanging Rock (Paperback)
When I came across the special edition of "Picnic at Hanging Rock" by Peter Weir I remembered how fond I was of that film - not to mention the effect the lovely "Miranda" had on me! Then and there I became aware of the fact that it was based on a book with the same title - and decided to buy the book as well.

It is truly a pity that Joan Lindsay did not write more books, as she's obviously very smart, having a great sense of humour and irony and a very gifted writer overall. This mystery novel imbued with horror and great beauty and a love of life alike kept me enthralled to the very last page - and left me thinking about it for a long time after. Does a book need any more praise?
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply excellent, 23 Aug 2011
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G. D. Busby "Cornish Graham" (Cornwall) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Picnic At Hanging Rock (Paperback)
Took this novel away to a conference... and finished it in no time. That's not a reflection on the quality of the conference, rather that late at night I was reading this instead of sleeping. For a novel that I certainly did not expect to 'entertain' me, it did. If you like a clear-cut ending, don't purchase this!

I mentioned to a good friend, at the conference, that I would have to view the movie now and that 'didn't it feature Jenny Agutter?'. No, he told me - that was 'Walkabout'. So, I guess the next step is to get hold of the movie! Don't hesitate over this novel, go for it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Enduring modern classic, 26 May 2014
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Much has already been written of this hauntingly atmospheric novel that is exquisite in it's concept and form. My only addition would be to ponder it's influence if any on the novel Atonement as they clearly share the enigmatic
Concept of imagination and almost "news reporting effect" of a story together with atmospheric and beautiful writing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read, 19 Feb 2014
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Very atmospheric and with pervading sense of sexual repression. Not quite sure what actually exactly happened at Hanging Rock but tremendous atmosphere. I haven't see the film but it was an obvious book to make into a film.
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5.0 out of 5 stars box set, 24 Nov 2013
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This review is from: Picnic At Hanging Rock (Paperback)
a classic well written ,well acted and haunting location work and the extras in the collection were worth the money alone
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Picnic At Hanging Rock
Picnic At Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay (Paperback - 2 July 1998)
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