My Friday Post: Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

Every Friday Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Gillion at Rose City Reader where you can share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

My book this week is Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay, one of the books I’m reading for this year’s 20 Books of Summer event. This book has been on my wishlist for years ever since I read about it on someone’s blog – sorry, I can’t remember which blog.

On St Valentine’s Day in 1900, a party of nineteen girls accompanied by two schoolmistresses sets off from the elite Appleyard College for Young Ladies, for a day’s outing at the spectacular volcanic mass called Hanging Rock. Some were never to return. The picnic, which begins innocently and happily ends in explicable terror …

It begins:

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.

Also every Friday there is The Friday 56, hosted by Freda at Freda’s Voice.

These are the rules:

  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.
  1. Grab a book, any book.
  2. Turn to page 56, or 56% on your eReader. If you have to improvise, that is okay.
  3. Find any sentence (or a few, just don’t spoil it) that grabs you.
  4. Post it.
  5. Add the URL to your post in the link on Freda’s most recent Friday 56 post.

Page 56:

The police, said Bumpher, were doing their utmost to clear up the mystery and in his opinion and that of Detective Lugg, it was essential that Edith as a key witness should be confronted with the actual scene as a spur to memory.

There’s an intriguing note at the beginning of the book:

Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction the 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.

Back to Barter Books!

On Tuesday I went Barter Books in Alnwick (this is a secondhand bookshop where you can ‘swap’ books for credit that you can then use to get more books from the Barter Books shelves). The last time I went there was in January 2020. Since the pandemic began I’ve only been out to a few places and not been around many people at all, so I was a bit nervous.

These are the books I got (the descriptions are from Amazon):

After the Crash by Michel Bussi – because I’d enjoyed reading Time is a Killer by Bussi a couple of years ago.

On the night of 22 December 1980, a plane crashes on the Franco-Swiss border and is engulfed in flames. 168 out of 169 passengers are killed instantly. The miraculous sole survivor is a three-month-old baby girl. Two families, one rich, the other poor, step forward to claim her, sparking an investigation that will last for almost two decades. Is she Lyse-Rose or Emilie?

Eighteen years later, having failed to discover the truth, private detective Crédule Grand-Duc plans to take his own life, but not before placing an account of his investigation in the girl’s hands. But, as he sits at his desk about to pull the trigger, he uncovers a secret that changes everything – then is killed before he can breathe a word of it to anyone . . .

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay – this has been on my wishlist for years!

It was a cloudless summer day in the year nineteen hundred.

Everyone at Appleyard College for Young Ladies agreed it was just right for a picnic at Hanging Rock. After lunch, a group of three of the girls climbed into the blaze of the afternoon sun, pressing on through the scrub into the shadows of Hanging Rock. Further, higher, till at last they disappeared.

They never returned.

Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction the reader must decide for themselves.

Fire by L C Tyler – I’ve never read any of his books. I chose it because I like historical fiction and I’m interested in the Restoration period, having read Andrew Taylor’s Marwood and Lovett series also set in the same period. Fire is the fourth book in the John Grey Historical Mystery series.

1666. London has been destroyed by fire and its citizens are looking for somebody, preferable foreign, to blame. Only the royal Court, with its strong Catholic sympathies, is trying to dampen down the post-conflaguration hysteria. Then, inconveniently, a Frenchman admits to having started it together with an accomplice, whom he says he has subsequently killed.

John Grey is tasked by Secretary of State, Lord Arlington, with proving conclusively that the self-confessed fire-raiser is lying. Though Grey agrees with Arlington that the Frenchman must be mad, he is increasingly perplexed at how much he knows. And a body has been discovered that appears in every way to match the description of the dead accomplice.

Grey’s investigations take him and his companion, Lady Pole, into the dangerous and still smoking ruins of the old City. And somebody out there – somebody at the very centre of power in England – would prefer it if they didn’t live long enough to conclude their work…

The Librarian by Salley Vickers – I’ve read a few of Salley Vickers’ books and enjoyed them, especially  Miss Garnet’s Angel and Mr Golightly’s Holiday, which I read before I began this blog.

In 1958, Sylvia Blackwell, fresh from one of the new post-war Library Schools, takes up a job as children’s librarian in a run down library in the market town of East Mole.

Her mission is to fire the enthusiasm of the children of East Mole for reading. But her love affair with the local married GP, and her befriending of his precious daughter, her neighbour’s son and her landlady’s neglected grandchild, ignite the prejudices of the town, threatening her job and the very existence of the library with dramatic consequences for them all.

The Librarian is a moving testament to the joy of reading and the power of books to change and inspire us all.

There was a queue outside when I got there as entry to the bookshop is limited to a maximum of about sixty people at a time to ensure enough space for social distancing. Although I was pleased to be able to go to Barter Books again, there were too many people there for me, especially around the counter and the crime fiction bookcases near the counter. So I didn’t linger and went to back of the main hall, which is the largest room in the shop where there were only a few people browsing the shelves. Even so I felt nervous, so once I’d found four books I decided it was time for me to leave. I’ve never been comfortable in crowds, even before the pandemic.