Today I am delighted to share with you a rather wonderful debut, The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue, which publishes today. ‘…a beautifully written debut novel. Moving, dark, mesmerising and incredibly atmospheric…an absolutely stunning story, one that lingers long after the final word has been read.’
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.
The mystery of a missing teacher and student – never solved and resurfacing every few years in the need for closure. Yet there are those that know what happened that fateful night and so far the truth has been buried. Now 25 years later a young journalist, who herself feels a strange connection to the case, begins a series of articles that may just help bring the truth to light. So she begins to dig, looking through decades of articles and interviews of a case that continues to stir interest. A case that still holds hurt, loss and even, for some, disdain amongst past pupils and those involved. Can she discover the truth searching through the fragmented remains of the past? What really happened that fateful night? The school itself never survived the scandal but what became of the nuns, the priests, the other students? Someone knows more than they are letting on. Can old ghosts ever finally be laid to rest?
Temple House has been run as a school for girls for fifty years. It is a good catholic school and the nuns run it with a quiet, steely calm with the help of the prefects and Head Girl Helen.
We see everything, we know everything.’
But beneath the accolades and the prestige lies an underbelly of secrets and lies. All is not quite as it seems and the consequences can be harsh if you don’t quite ‘fit in’ and if things aren’t done in the ‘correct’ way. It’s the autumn of 1990 and Louisa, a young woman from a broken family, wins a scholarship to finish her education at the school. It’s an effort to allow those from less fortunate backgrounds but who show excellence, the chance to thrive on all the school has to offer.
Temple House itself lies quietly in the background throughout the novel. It has a sinister air providing the necessary backdrop in this dark tale of love, passion, desire and the madness they can summon. Right from the opening prologue we know that Temple House can not be a happy place. It is supposed to offer opportunities and a future, the chance to shine but it is shrouded in cold shadow.
From the start Louisa feels out of place, although that is true of anywhere as she navigates the difficult days of adolescence. Then she meets Victoria. There is an instant connection and they spend much of their time together. They are the ones who dream of better things. Inspired by the works of Woolf, Becket, Plath – literature that makes you think and challenge the world around you they look for the beauty and meaning in the shadows. There is an air of the style of these revered writers in Rachel’s own writing. She looks deep into the soul and the darkness that can lie there.
Then there is Mr Lavelle, the young, beautiful enigmatic art teacher. He is different to the other teachers and there is an air of mystery to him, one that he thrives on. We see him mostly through the eyes of the young women that surround him, his character in their hands but I feel there is more to Lavelle. He inspires in them deeper thought and consideration and encourages them to look past the outer appearance of the world around them. What passions can this ignite though? Well those can be deadly.
This is a beautifully written debut novel. Moving, dark, mesmerising and incredibly atmospheric. It captures the intensity of adolescence, that time when we feel that the world doesn’t understand us but that we are poised for either greatness or nothingness. The fall from these feelings can be spectacular and this novel looks at life through a prism, scattering the many different colours and emotions. Rachel is a very exciting new voice in literature and I thoroughly recommend this, her debut novel.
The Temple House Vanishing is published by Corvus, an imprint of Atalntic Books. It is available now in Hardback, Ebook and Audiobook; a paperback edition is due to be published in September. (I will definitely be adding this to my audiobook wishlist – it will be stunning!)
Thank you so much to both Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. This is an absolutely stunning story, one that lingers long after the final word has been read.
You can follow Corvus on Twitter at @CorvusBooks
About the author
Rachel Donohue graduated from University College, Dublin, in Philosophy and Politics before embarking on a career in communications and media relations. She lives in Dublin, and The Temple House Vanishing is her first novel.