I am delighted to share my review today for The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue. This is a book that has divided opinions when you look at the reviews. So I bought a copy and gave it a go as it did sound interesting to me.
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.
The Temple House Vanishing is a stunning, intensely atmospheric novel of unrequited longing, dark obsession and uneasy consequences.
I have seen a few reviews for this book and it is one that seems to divide opinions. It is a slower-paced story and it does have a literary fiction lean to it, I think this is why it appealed to me.
A teacher and a student go missing from a boarding school run by nuns. The student, Louisa, doesn’t fit in. She has been accepted via a scholarship and is not afforded the same respect as those who have rich parents willing to pay the fees. The teacher is Mr Lavelle, a young teacher, who inspires and is open to his students, encouraging them to explore their minds further. Not a conventional teacher but one that is well-liked.
It is 25 years after the disappearances, and no one knows the whereabouts of Louisa or Lavelle. As the anniversary is coming up a local journalist picks the story back up and tries to look for those who may be able to shed new light on this old case.
The story is told from the perspectives of Louisa and the Journalist.
This is a very slow and yet very atmospheric novel that really hit the right notes for me. There is the mystery of the missing persons and this is told in a then and now timeline. Reading from Louisa’s perspective as she joins this new school you soon realise that there is a difference in how a student is perceived and therefore accepted. Louisa gained her place on merit, clever awarded a place because of her excellent exam results. And not, as some others are, students of rich parents. The hierarchy is evident, but not all the students think this way. Louisa is befriended and made to feel welcome by a fellow loner, Victoria.
The author gradually tells of the school, the students and the classes. All the time building on the relationships and friendships made. When the Journalist is introduced other details are brought to light, and her role in revisiting this story means she gets to seek out those who were part of it. Slowly and gently the author teases and weaves a tale that comes across with a slight gothic edge to it, some of the characters almost have an ethereal presence and this adds to the atmosphere. Some of the characters are very daydreamy and they seem to flutter through the story while others feel very real.
I really enjoyed this one and I found it very absorbing. I do like a slow burner of a story and this is definitely that. For me, the story had atmosphere, tragedy, and mystery and at times I did think it had a Du Maurier style to it.
I am aware that this book has split opinions, but for me, I adored it and thought it was beautifully written. It does fall into literary fiction, suspense, friendship and mystery and it is one I would definitely recommend.
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