Arguably one of Australia’s most-loved novels and greatest of mysteries, Joan Lindsay’s Picnic at Hanging Rock has entrenched itself in Australian folklore since it was first published in 1967. The novel has been studied in schools and is still believed to be true by many who have read it.
Republished eight years later to coincide with the now-classic 1975 movie adaptation by Peter Weir, the book has recently received new life again with an outstanding Showtime mini-series starring Natalie Dormer as the founder and headmistress of the Appleyard College private boarding school.
When three girls and a teacher go missing during a school picnic at Hanging Rock on St Valentine’s Day of 1900, it sets in motion a series of tragedies as the school and community seek to discover what happened.
In line with Foxtel’s 6-part mini-series, Yael Stone (Orange is the New Black) narrates this fresh new audiobook, having played governess Dora Lumley, the mistress of Deportment and Bible Studies, in the series. The intensity of her on-screen appearance is far removed from her articulate and sometimes wistful narration of the book. Her voice is distinct but she provides such great characterisations, particularly with the students’ youthfulness. She also flawlessly captures the dreamy mood of certain scenes and the curious mysticism that permeates Lindsay’s story line. Stone is an effective narrator, as good with character as she is with mood.
The 2011 release of Picnic at Hanging Rock with Jacqueline McKenzie as the audiobook narrator is still available through Bolinda Audio, but it’s an abridged audiobook and a very different beast from Yael Stone’s unabridged reading. The TV tie-in audiobook was released by Bolinda in May 2018 and runs for approximately 8 hours and 41 minutes. It’s available directly from Bolinda Audio as a standard or MP3 CD for $39.95.
Highly recommended as much for those who have never experienced the mystery as it is for those who want to return to the enigmatic Hanging Rock.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 9