‘The Temple House Vanishing’ by Rachel Donohue

Power. Jealousy. Desire.

Twenty-five years ago, a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl and her charismatic teacher disappeared without trace…

When Louisa arrives at Temple House, an elite catholic boarding school, she quickly finds herself drawn to sophisticated fellow pupil Victoria and their young bohemian art teacher, Mr Lavelle. The three of them form a bond that seems to offer an escape from the repressive regime of the nuns who run the cloistered school. Until Louisa and Mr Lavelle suddenly vanish. 

Years later, a journalist with a childhood connection to Louisa determines to resolve the mystery. Her 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 unintended consequences.

Rachel Donohue certainly knows how to create a claustrophobic, intense narrative, full of tension, repression and teenage fantasies.  

The boarding school setting, the rustling nuns, the louche art teacher, the awkward outsider, all work beautifully together and the mystery disappearance of one of the pupils keeps you guessing. The pace is good, the drama builds in a satisfying way, and there is great insight into characters’ motivations.

A couple of things didn’t work that well for me, however. I felt that the journalist’s story could have been developed more fully, and I didn’t believe completely in the final dénouement, which, after thoroughly enjoying the novel up until then, was quite disappointing.

That said, Donohue certainly knows how to write convincing characters and atmospheric settings, and I look forward to her next book.



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