Picnic at Mount Disappointment book cover
Book reviews

Picnic at Mount Disappointment, by Melissa Bruce

What I cannot fathom is why Picnic at Mount Disappointment (published by Ginninderra Press, 2017), the debut novel of Sydney based Australian writer Melissa Bruce, has not been nominated for more literary awards than it so far has. Aside from taking out the 2017 Woollahra Digital Literary Award for Fiction, the book seems to have gone unnoticed in Australian literary circles.

It’s probably obvious already I have only good things to say, though I will add that it’s my belief Picnic at Mount Disappointment is a prime candidate for a film adaptation. But let me catch you up here. For those unfamiliar, Mount Disappointment, a peak some eight-hundred metres high, is located about sixty-kilometres north of Melbourne, in the Australian state of Victoria.

Coming to this neck of the woods in the early 1980s, is fifteen year old Lucinda, with her younger brother, Pip. They have been uprooted from their inner-Melbourne life, after her father remarries, and moves to his new wife’s home in the country. To make matters worse, her father spends the working week in the city, leaving Lucinda and Pip to become acquainted with their new step-mother, Christine, by themselves.

Lucinda’s mother, meanwhile, is overseas, and seems to have no interest in returning to Australia. Leaving the city is not the only adjustment Lucinda is forced to make. She’s now a student at the local state high school, which is a far cry from the leafy grounds of the private school she once attended. It goes without saying that the transition from the old life to the new is far from smooth.

Picnic at Mount Disappointment is written in a not-oft seen verse-style prose, evoking thoughts of communicating on social network platforms such as Twitter. At first it may seem Bruce is pitching at a young adult audience, but as the story unfolds through its excerpt-like notations, it’s clear she has a far wider readership in mind. If we’re not going through what Lucinda is now, it could well be we once did.