Setting: 1900. Appleyard College, a private boarding school for young ladies in Australia.
First line: "Everyone agreed that the day was just right for the picnic to Hanging Rock--a shimmering summer morning warm and still, with cicadas shrilling all through breakfast from the loquat trees outside the dining-room windows and bees murmuring above the pansies bordering the drive.
The plot: The book starts out with a pleasant outing: twenty girls and two teachers having a picnic lunch at Hanging Rock. Then four of the girls take an innocent walk up to the monolith. Only one of them comes back, hysterical. The others are nowhere to be found. The mystery of what happened to those three girls, and the repercussions of their strange disappearance and how it affects those left behind, take up the rest of this novel.
My thoughts: This is not a fast page-turning thriller. The narrative is slow, almost methodical, with more description than dialogue. But I thought it was interesting, especially seeing the impact this one tragic incident has on those at Appleyard College. Although it's not the girls who are at the center of this novel. (A fact I found a little disappointing.) I like stories set in boarding schools, but there's no immediacy in this one, and no real sense of daily life. The school is mostly in the background.
There were three characters I liked: Michael Fitzhubert and Albert Crundall, two young men who help search for the girls, and Mademoiselle de Poitiers, the young French teacher at Appleyard. But I never felt a deep connection with any of them. There's an almost surreal quality to this novel. And the mystery is left unsolved at the end. Although I actually liked that about the novel. The truth probably would have been a letdown. I prefer the not-knowing. All in all, I'd give this one 3 stars.
This book was published in 1967, and counts as my Mystery/Detective/Crime Classic for Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge.