Let's Talk Books

Are Good Novels a Force of Nature?

Margot—over at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist—wrote an intriguing post about books featuring characters stranded, or struggling against the forces of nature: aka, Daniel Defoe’s ROBINSON CRUSOE or Jane Harper’s FORCES OF NATURE. I, in turn, posted a comment about the infamous PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK, by Joan Lindsay, a book I had read way back in the mid-70s.

The events portrayed by Lindsay got me to thinking about the book again. I’m not sure, at the time, whether I even finished it. As I have a lasting impression that I didn’t really enjoy it. But what strikes me now, as maybe it did then, and what might have prompted me to read the book at the time, is the enduring mystery surrounding the veracity of the story. And whether, in fact, Lindsay’s book was a work of fiction or was based loosely on actual events.

Even today, there are two schools of thought. There are those that ardently believe Lindsay, who wrote the book in a matter of weeks, was writing fiction about real events. Leaving breadcrumbs in her novel as to what happened, though, today, no one has ever found a connection to what these real events might have been. And then there are those of us, like me, who believe the hype surrounding this novel swallowed it up whole, like the mountain did in the novel, to the fictional characters who mysteriously vanished into thin air.

Why this book has endured so long and the myths created about it continue, is fascinating.

If you like intrigue, you might want to pick up a copy from your library and give it a read and then, make up your own mind: fact or fiction. Which ever side you come down on, there’s little disputing the conclusion I came to, the characters in the book died at the hand of Nature, when a rockslide crushed and enveloped them erasing all evidence.

Share your thoughts.


  1. Thanks for the mention! And it really is interesting to contemplate whether or not the events of Picnic… actually happened. Sometimes, as you say, the hype gets to be more important, almost, than the story itself. Either way, it’s an intriguing speculation, isn’t it?

    • La Blonde says

      Indeed, Margot. I found myself sucked back into the mystery when I decided to write this post. Maybe it’s Lindsay’s genius at writing Picnic in the way and style she did, and then adding to the mystery once it was published, that fuelled the hype machine. But it certainly doesn’t show signs of ever slowing down any time soon, all these years later.

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