'It was a cloudless summer day in the year 1900. Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, a group of three girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of the secluded volcanic outcropping. Farther, higher, until at last they disappeared. They never returned. ...'
Source: Publisher's blurb (Penguin Random House, 2014).
On St Valentine's Day 1900, three schoolgirls and a teacher from an exclusive English-style boarding school go missing at the mysterious Hanging Rock in central Victoria. One of the girls is found alive a week later, but the others are never seen again. As morale within the school begins to disintegrate, the headmistress's increasingly incoherent anger is turned towards one student, leading to tragic consequences. Although the police suspect Michael Fitzhubert, a young English aristocrat, and his manservant Albert, who were in the area at the time the girls disappeared, the mystery is never solved. As Paul Byrnes (Australian Screen) notes, the suggested scenarios range from the 'banal and explicable (a crime of passion) to deeply mystical (a crime of nature).'[Source: Australian Screen]
'Australia, 1900. An ancient land becomes the site of an impossible mystery. A group of schoolgirls and their teachers venture out into the sundrenched landscape, only for four of their number to disappear forever.
'The subsequent investigation creates more questions than answers. One of the girls is found with no memory of what happened to her or her classmates, another succumbs to hysteria for no apparent reason. Those close to the missing girls begin to meet with unfortunate ends and it becomes clear that this is no ordinary disappearance.' (Production summary)
'Postcolonial Gothic, like revisionist historical fiction, might be seen as another symptom of the reassessment of discourses of colonial history since the 1960s, though Gothic interrogations of national cultural myths have a darker more anxious quality, tending to focus on 'ghost stories' that haunt narratives of origin...' (Introduction)
'Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, which turns fifty this year, owes a share of its longevity to the modern folklore of vanished white women that has swirled around sites like Hanging Rock in Victoria’s Macedon Ranges since the nineteenth century. Lindsay’s Gothic legend still clings to this unique rock formation. The tale’s enduring appeal and unsettling allure arises from a mist of fact and fiction, casting a magic unspoiled even by the kitsch tourist injunction at Hanging Rock Reserve to ‘Experience the Mystery.’ No matter how often the story is demystified, its ghost lives on in urban legend, with all the appearance of an actual unsolved crime. The mystery lives on in the inescapable question: did it really happen?' (Introduction)
'On Valentine’s Day 1900, three schoolgirls and a teacher disappear while on a school outing at Hanging Rock in Victoria.
'What became of the missing girls and their teacher?
'Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock detailed the tragedy, and the author left strict instructions for the final chapter not to be printed until her death.
'Many Australians remember the 1967 book and 1975 film; many high school students studied it as part of their school curriculum. But was the story real? And did the secret chapter released after Joan Lindsay's death cast a new light on the fate of the missing ladies?' (Publication abstract)
'In the winter of 1966, at sixty-nine years of age, Lady Joan Lindsay sat down and wrote a short novel about a group of upper-class schoolgirls from a prestigious ladies’ college who disappear while on a country picnic in the summer of 1900. The result was Picnic at Hanging Rock, a literary mystery that has endured for half a century.
'Beyond the Rock looks at not just the myth of Picnic and how it has become part of Australia’s culture, but also the story behind it. It examines Joan Lindsay’s enigmatic life, much of which she kept secret from the world, including her childhood, her complex marriage to Daryl Lindsay of the famous Lindsay family of artists, their enduring love and unconventional bohemian life, and her life at Mulberry Hill, the Lindsays’ own Arcadia deep in the Victorian countryside.
'This is the story of one of Australia’s most famous novels, and the author who kept its secrets until she died.'
Source: Publisher's blurb.