Book of the Week: ‘Beyond the Rock’ by Janelle McCulloch

Book of the Week: ‘Beyond the Rock’ by Janelle McCulloch

xbeyond-the-rock.jpg.pagespeed.ic.ew-bWD3MhBWhy we love it: If Australian classic Picnic at Hanging Rock didn’t already have you fascinated, you sure will be left wondering after Janelle McCulloch’s analysis of author Joan Lindsay.

After the now-iconic novel was released in 1967, and subsequently turned into a film of the same name eight years later, there was one prominent question – was it a true story disguised as fiction?

Did a Valentine’s Day picnic at the eerie Hanging Rock in 1900 really end with three girls and a teacher’s disappearance, turning a community upside down?

Beyond the Rock puts the microscope on enigmatic Lindsay, retelling her early years as a private schoolgirl (similar to the girls lost in Picnic), to life as a socialite, wife and writer, detailing her 88 years with the backdrop of the Australian landscape. McCulloch’s narrative paints Lindsay as a mysterious and intuitive woman who navigates life and marriage to prominent artist Sir Daryl Lindsay.

The Victorian author was 69 years of age when inspired by a dream to write Picnic – a piece that captured the imagination of her readers and pushed her into an almost unwanted prominence.

If Lindsay’s original foreword wasn’t mysterious enough: “Whether Picnic at Hanging Rock is fact or fiction, or both, readers must decide for themselves . . . we live in an age when Fact is nearly always harder to swallow than Fiction’, McCulloch’s unearthing of an earlier document with a dash through the words:

‘For the author, who knew Mount Macedon and the Hanging Rock very well as a child, the story is entirely true’ will give you a chill.Janelle McCulloch 1

Excerpts from Lindsay’s two autobiographies and quotes from friends add to the richness of this biography, as does McCulloch’s clear admiration of Lindsay’s character.

While the blur between fact and fiction is the undercurrent of this book, the best part is the fascinating story of a notable Australian woman who transformed with the times and had a keen eye for a compelling tale.

Similarly to Picnic, Beyond the Rock is part ode to nature. The coffee table book is beautifully designed and reflective of the intriguing and eerie feel Lindsay created.

Scattered with photos of Lindsay’s stunning Mulberry Hill estate and snaps from trips to Europe with her husband, much like McCulloch’s earlier book La Vie Parisienne, the scrapbook design adds that something extra. And it makes perfect sense – McCulloch, like Lindsay, pairs novel writing with journalism and would understand how imagery and ‘look and feel’ enhances words.

The book is well timed, too, given FremantleMedia Australia and Foxtel’s 2016 announcement that the story is being made into a six-part miniseries.

Whether you were captivated by Picnic many years ago or are yet to discover the local classic, Beyond the Rock is a read that will suck you in and make you wonder – where are the lines between fact and fiction, and do they matter?

Purchase a copy or start reading here!

 

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Publisher details

Beyond the Rock
Author
Janelle McCullough
Publisher
Bonnier Publishing
Genre
Australian Fiction
Released
01 April, 2017

Synopsis

In the winter of 1966, at sixty-nine years of age, Lady Joan Lindsay sat down and wrote a short novel about a group of upper-class schoolgirls from a prestigious ladies? college who disappear while on a country picnic in the summer of 1900. The result was Picnic at Hanging Rock, a literary mystery that has endured for half a century.Beyond the Rock looks at not just the myth of Picnic and how it has become part of Australia?s culture, but also the story behind it. It examines Joan Lindsay?s enigmatic life, much of which she kept secret from the world, including her childhood, her complex marriage to Daryl Lindsay of the famous Lindsay family of artists, their enduring love and unconventional bohemian life, and her life at Mulberry Hill, the Lindsays? own Arcadia deep in the Victorian countryside.This is the story of one of Australia?s most famous novels, and the author who kept its secrets until she died.About the AuthorJanelle McCulloch has been a journalist, editor and author for 20 years, both in Australia and Europe. She has worked as an editor for many home and lifestyle magazines, and has contributed style and design pieces to well-known publications such as Sunday Life, Vogue Living, Elle, Marie Claire, the(melbourne)magazine and Inside Melbourne.

Publisher details

Picnic at Hanging Rock
Author
Joan Lindsay
Publisher
Penguin
Genre
Fiction
Released
01 January, 1967

Synopsis

'Don't worry about us, Mam'selle dear,' smiled Miranda. 'We shall only be gone a very little while.'In 1900, a class of young women from an exclusive private school go on an excursion to the isolated Hanging Rock, deep in the Australian bush. The excursion ends in tragedy when three girls and a teacher mysteriously vanish after climbing the rock. Only one girl returns, with no memory of what has become of the others...#34 in  Australia's Top 100 Favourite Homegrown Reads
Janelle McCullough
About the author

Janelle McCullough

Janelle McCulloch has been a journalist, editor and author for 20 years, both in Australia and Europe. She has worked as an editor for many home and lifestyle magazines, and has contributed style and design pieces to well-known publications such as Sunday Life, Vogue Living, Elle, Marie Claire, the(melbourne)magazine and Inside Melbourne.

Books by Janelle McCullough

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