Picnic at Hanging Rock -Joan Lindsay

classics, mystery

 

To the next person who reads this book:

Picnic at Hanging Rock, set in Bendigo, Victoria, is a mysterious, haunting story that has many moments that are chilling.

Four girls from a prestigious English boarding school in the Australian bush in the 1900’s go missing from a school picnic at Hanging Rock.

Hanging Rock is vividly described – yet perhaps better is the detail Lindsay doesn’t provide. The uncertainty and mystery around the rock makes it seem the same in nature as some of the deepest, most unfathomable places in the ocean – unexplored.

We never gain any explanation as to what becomes of Miranda, with ‘corn starch’ hair, who is lovely as a white swan (the white swan becomes a symbol for her ghost, or memory) or Miranda Quade, bookish and factual. Irma Leopold, an heiress, is found, but everyone who has contact with the rock seem strangely to be unable to recall certain details or whole events that unfold on or around it.

This story depicts how the disappearance of the girls at Hanging Rock devastates the many lives that were touched by this single event. Lindsay trails the characters linked to that day, and we see, that the disaster of the rock reaches much further than the geographical space the rock inhabits itself. The disappearance ripples forth with invisible ways of horror into the community.

The charming depictions of the Australian bush, the rock, the boarding house and the story’s characters  make for a compelling read, and creates images that return to the readers mind long after the story is finished.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

 

 

 

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The Bird’s Nest – Shirley Jackson

classics, Pschological horror

To the next person who reads this book:

The Bird’s Nest is one of Jackson’s earlier works. It came before The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

The Bird’s Nest introduces us first to Elizabeth Richmond, who lives with her outspoken Aunt, works at a desk in a museum and, otherwise leads an uneventful life.

But the more I think of her, the more interesting she becomes: she at once comes across as lacking in some way – of self, or personality. She leads a quiet life of routine and habit, diligently going to work every day, then coming home to Aunt Morgen, where she eats dinner with Aunt Morgen and never interrupts Aunt Morgen to speak.

Elizabeth also appears to have no friends. It’s rather like she is living a life that is ‘good’ and ‘well-behaved’ – seeming not to have any wants or desires (or if she ever did, they have long been forgotten or supressed). Her life, much like her work at the museum, seems very methodical and vacant.

Elizabeth’s quiet existence is disrupted by the affliction of terrible headaches and backaches, along with mysterious notes being left on her desk at work, and the following of some unexplained events. The headaches, after reaching a point of severity  prompt a visit to a doctor, which then eventuates in Elizabeth’s seeing a psychologist, where we find that Elizabeth’s body hosts three other personalities…

The awakening of these personalities seem at first terrifying, particularly in the way that Betsy keeps asking if she can open her eyes.

The revealing of each new personality tells us something more of Elizabeth’s life – and how she came to exist in the way that she does.

Jackson is especially clever in the way that she shows how these different personalities interact, not just with one another, but also with Aunt Morgen and Doctor Wright (Elizabeth’s doctor), which I especially enjoyed.

Also interesting was the question of identity, and who we are. In the war between the personalities inside Elizabeth’s body, we are made to think about what actually makes us who we are inside, and who we would be, if say, another personality suddenly gained consciousness over our lives while we remained unconscious to this fact.

Would who we are, or who we were, be dead? Do we cease to be? For me, this was an interesting question. It is a strange thought to imagine my body walking around with someone else living, acting, thinking, and being on my behalf.