Picnic at Hanging Rock

Joan Lindsay

Picnic at Hanging Rock
Text Publishing Co
20 September 2019

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Joan Lindsay

If her terrified cries had been heard by anyone but a wallaby squatting in a clump of bracken a few feet away, the picnic at Hanging Rock might yet have been just another picnic on a summer’s day.

On a cloudless summer day in 1900, a group from Appleyard College for Young Ladies goes for a picnic. In the heat of the afternoon sun, three girls climb through the scrub-and disappear.

Ethereal and enigmatic, Picnic at Hanging Rock has been haunting the Australian imagination for half a century.


Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock birthed a mythology so entrenched in the Australian culture that it is now inextricable from the landmark itself. First published in 1967, the story is set on Valentine’s Day, 1900, when three schoolgirls and their teacher from nearby Appleyard College set out to explore the rock and are never seen again. Their disappearance, shrouded in mystery, rattles the college’s otherwise careful community. Their manufactured sense of order is challenged by something unexplainable – this unease anchors Lindsay’s suspenseful narrative.

Picnic at Hanging Rock fed the deepest held fears about the unknown of the Australian bush. It is a relic of its moment in time where the colonial institution stands in stark contrast to, and is perhaps rejected by, the landscape it is forcing itself upon. Picnic at Hanging Rock leaves its reader with more questions than it answers. Its horror is built through evocative and atmospheric tension, building towards a release that is not guaranteed. Readers who enjoy contemporary Australian gothic crime must revisit this modern classic. Lindsay’s prose has a sensual quality – fit for reading on bleached, dry grass, on the hottest day of summer. Recommended for readers aged 14+.

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