Saturday, 8 November 2014

Picnic at Hanging Rock

Image sourced from here 
When I was a kid, the movie of this book was standard midday movie material for so many years. I had absolutely no interest in this book at all. All I remember about the movie was my parents sometimes switching to it, sometimes me as there was nothing else on besides cricket, and me sticking out about 30 mins and getting thoroughly bored.

Girls in ridiculous dresses prancing around the bush complaining that it was hot and there were flies. Of course there was. It was the end of our ridiculously hot, dry summers and you lot are prancing around in gloves. And dresses. I mean at 8 years old I'm watching them all trying to walk up bush tracks in dresses and I was thinking they were morons. After 30 mins of this, I usually gave up and went and played in the dirt. Or with a kangaroo or something.

So I never even thought of the book. Until the ABC's First Tuesday Book Club did a poll/show on 10 Aussie Books You Must Read Before You Die and it came number 10 as voted by the public. If you can get around geoblocks and can watch it I recommend it. As it made me think, what did I miss? I also realised, that maybe not seeing the movie was a perfect set of circumstances to read the book.

So I have read it. And what I missed, and was probably too young to get, was the ominous sense of place and the atmosphere. From the outset, you have the oppressive Australian heat beating down on you. You have that feeling of dryness, where you can feel the moisture being sucked out of your body on southern Australian days. If they are not described (I cannot remember as they are so vivid either way) you have that insanely loud sound of cicadas, their constant, shrill trilling/shrieking that screams you are in a hot, dry, remote, people-less place known as the Australian bush. That sound makes the feeling of remoteness resonate through your bones. Already you feel isolated. Then you add in the girls going missing and the element of mystery.

It's a short book, but I had no idea what was happening until it finished. And then I breathed. I mean that in the sense that I felt so tense, and oppressed, by the environment and then the mystery and it's surroundings, I finished the book and could breathe. Maybe I was holding my breath a little. But still those big, deep breaths. Then it hit me. I had no idea what had happened.

I think that is a strength to the book, and really maybe I should mark this as a spoiler, but I had no more of idea what had happened than I did when it occurred. Apparently there is an another chapter that explains all, but I don't think we need it. I am happy leaving it to a mystery of the bush. We have thousands of years of mysteries tied to our bush, and I am fine to give it another. It really is an ominous place. Also, it is a novelty to have a mystery in lit that isn't solved. So yay for an actual mystery.

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