The Secret of Hanging Rock
Angus & Robertson, $6.95 pb, 58 pp
More than anything else, The Secret of Hanging Rock is an exercise in marketing strategies and packaging. The real question, what happened to the girls, is in the midst of this finally of little importance, although it could have been very important. Indeed, the final, previously unpublished chapter of Picnic at Hanging Rock is only one of four pieces of writing in the publishers’ package, each of which tries to be as important as the next.
As well, there is an introduction written presumably by the publishers themselves, a second psalmquoting introduction by John Taylor. the Promotions Manager at Cheshire who handled Joan Lindsay’s original manuscript, and a commentary on the chapter by Yvonne Rousseau, author of The Murders at Hanging Rock which the publishers describe in their introduction as a ‘remarkable scholarly spoof’. The package also includes (as with most fiction these days) a tasteful painting on the front cover, a detail from Frederick McCubbin’s Lost (painted, incidentally, fourteen years before the setting of Picnic, in 1886, and showing only one girl, alone. She’s not on a rock either, but on flat ground in a forest. In fact, there’s little connection between the cover painting and Lindsay’s story, where the girls, while missing, are not ‘lost’ at all.)