'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)
'This article argues that the sexualisation of childhood discourses have a distinct history in Australia. To advance this argument, I will explore the similarities between these discourses and discourses surrounding the iconic Australian “lost child”. In all of these discourses, a white child (here a symbol of White Australia’s future and past) becomes lost in an unforgiving and dangerous environment. This child is assumed to be asexual, though with the likelihood that they will mature into reproductive heterosexuality. This latter point will be illuminated in the final section of the article, which will focus specifically on the 2016 criticisms of the Safe Schools Coalition Australia. These criticisms are the most recent examples of anti-sexualisation discourses in Australia.' (Publication abstract)
"Using the philosophical position of phenomenology, this article examines the ways in which ideas of wildness combine with Australian Gothic tropes such as the white colonial lost child and the bush as a haunted locale to compose key features of an Australian ecoGothic. On St Valentine’s Day in 1900, three young Australian girls and their teacher disappear from a school picnic at the ancient site of Mount Macedon in Victoria. The analysis of Picnic at Hanging Rock (1967), which focuses on author Joan Lindsay’s posthumously published chapter eighteen (1987) examines how elements of the material, sensing world combine with the mythological or sacred to connect the human protagonists with the Gothic landscape they inhabit. The resulting intersubjectivity problematises colonial ideology and unsettles notions of national identity." (blurb)
'Far from being a flimsy, frilly story for women full of antique charm and middle-class manners, Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock is a novel of sharp social observations and nuanced critique; subtle and sometimes latent sensuality; and layered, intricate allegory. The ‘shimmering summer morning warm and still’ brings the opposite to what it promises. Life is more complex and unstable in Lindsay’s world. Whoever would have thought that a picnic on Valentine’s Day 1900 would go so horribly wrong for the students and teachers of Appleyard College, or that the picnickers would return to the school with three senior girls and one teacher missing at Hanging Rock?' (Introduction)
'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)