Title: The Temple House Vanishing
Author: Rachel Donohue
Genre: Literary Fiction, Mystery
Publication Date: 20th February 2020
Publisher: Corvus, Atlantic Books
Twenty-five years ago, a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl and her charismatic teacher disappeared without trace…
In an elite Catholic girls’ boarding-school the pupils live under the repressive, watchful gaze of the nuns. Seeking to break from the cloistered atmosphere two of the students – Louisa and Victoria – quickly become infatuated with their young, bohemian art teacher, and act out passionately as a result. That is, until he and Louisa suddenly disappear.
Years later, a journalist uncovers the troubled past of the school and determines to resolve the mystery of the missing pair. The search for the truth will uncover a tragic, mercurial tale of suppressed desire and long-buried secrets. It will shatter lives and lay a lost soul to rest.
I’ve been looking forward to reading this one for a while because I’ve heard some really good things about it. The story takes place in two timelines. One in the 90s at the elite Catholic girls school, Temple House, where a student, Louisa, and a young male teacher both mysteriously disappeared. The other takes place in the present day and follows a journalist investigating the disappearance whilst writing a series of articles on the subject.
If you’re looking for an action-packed or fast-paced read then The Temple House Vanishing is not it. This book is much more of a slow-burn kind of character study that creates a fantastically atmospheric mood as you read it. There is an immediate and creepy sense of foreboding to Temple House itself which coupled with the author’s lovely descriptive prose manifests an otherworldly and haunting feeling. This book really captures the drama that only teenage girls can really find in their lives. There is a definite sort of need for extremes and turning every interaction into a loaded one which works perfectly for this kind of story. There is also a sadness present in this book which I felt really strongly but can’t quite explain.
The Temple House Vanishing uncovers the elitism that can be so damaging, especially to young people and which is inherently present in the expensive Temple House education. Louisa is at the school on a scholarship and this is something made very clear in the actions of her enemies at the school but also in the people she starts to care very much for. There is a sort of ‘them and us’ divide that even in a religious institution which supposedly reveres humble living shows itself through it’s hypocrisy. I loved all the twisted and thorny relationships and found myself genuinely chilled by something in the tone of this book. There is something hauntingly beautiful about it and I would definitely recommend it if a strong atmosphere is something that appeals to you! I’ll definitely be looking out for Donohue’s next book.
I received this e-arc through Netgalley. My review is my own honest opinion.