Wednesday 14 September 2016

Inkling Explorations - A Picnic

Once a month, Heidi @Sharing the Journey poses a provocation for our consideration.

September's link up is: a picnic scene in literature or film.

If you'd like to join in, here's how:
1. Post the Inklings button on your sidebar.
2. Do a post on your own blog relating to the month's selection/subject (a literary excerpt as short or as long as you like AND/OR—if specified that month—a screencap from a film with an explanation of how the scene builds/develops the story). Link back to Sharing the Journey somewhere in your post.
3. Paste your link in the comments box and I'll add it to the post. Then enjoy visiting and reading everyone else's contributions!

That's all there is to it!

For me, there is only one possible picnicking scene in all of known literature.

This book, it's picnic and the bizarre consequences of what happened there, was burnt onto my memory during my teen years when I first read the book in question. The fabulously eerie, mysterious and sensual film of the same name only added to the allure when I eventually watched it as well.

I am, of course referring to Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay.

First published in 1967, this fictitious, and deliberately ambiguous, story about a Valentine's picnic in 1900 by a group of school girls and their teachers, blurred the line between fact and fiction. For years, many people in Australia wondered if this story was based on real events. The 1975 Peter Weir movie only increased the speculation.

Lindsay maintained the myth by refusing to discuss the details of her book. She also began her novel with a 'note from the author' that said,
Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction, my readers must decide for themselves. As the fateful picnic took place in the year nineteen hundred, and all the characters who appear in this book are long since dead, it hardly seems important.
My 2013 review of Picnic at Hanging Rock can be found here (with a trailer from the movie) and some pics from our family holiday to the real Hanging Rock in 2007 are here.

But for now, here's the picnic....
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. (pg1)

Still from the 1975 movie in the breakfast room - exchanging Valentine cards.

Manmade improvement on Nature at the Picnic Grounds consisted of several circles of flat stones to serve as fireplaces and a wooden privy in the shape of a Japanese pagoda. The creek at the close of summer ran sluggishly through long, dry grass, now and then disappearing to re-appear as a shallow pool. Lunch had been set out on large white tablecloths close by, shaded from the heat of the sun by two or three spreading gums. In addition to the chicken pie, angel cakes, jellies and the tepid bananas inseperable from an Australian picnic, Cook had provided a handsome iced cake in the shape of a heart, for which Tom had obligingly cut a mould from a piece of tin. Mr Hussey had boiled up two immense billycans of tea on a fire of bark and leaves and was now enjoying a pipe in the shadow of the drag where he could keep a watchful eye on his horses tethered in the shade. (pg19)
Still from the 1975 movie at the base of Hanging Rock. A Toast to St Valentine!
Hunger satisfied and the unwonted delicacies enjoyed to the last morsel, the cups and plates rinsed at the pool, they settled down to amuse themselves for the remainder of the afternoon. Some wandered of in twos and threes, under strict injunctions not to stray out of sight of the drag; others, drugged with rich food and sunshine, dozed and dreamed. (pg21) 

Things obviously go pear-shaped for this group of happy picnickers, from this moment on!

What other books feature an iconic or significant picnic scene?


  1. Anonymous15/9/16

    I'm still hoping I can get my hands on a copy of Picnic at Hanging Rock to read in November. I've been meaning to read it since last November. :) Picnic scenes in books immediately conjures up Jane Austen. So much happens at picnics in her books...

    1. So true! And Heidi featured an Austen picnic in her Inkling :-)

      I hope you can find a copy of PAHR for November - I'd love to hear what you think of it.


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