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The Temple House Vanishing

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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.

336 pages, Kindle Edition

First published February 6, 2020

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Rachel Donohue

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 639 reviews
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,545 reviews24.6k followers
November 2, 2019
This is a fine debut from Rachel Donohoe, a dark, chillingly suspenseful mystery novel with gothic overtones, where raging teenage hormones, overheated emotions, and imaginations spill over in a all girls Roman Catholic boarding school. In a school run by nuns, there is the juxtaposition of opposites, the strictures and repression of religion with its damnation and morality, crossed with the rampant emotional intensity, desires and obsessions of young girls, particularly with the incendiary addition of a male art teacher, Edward Lavelle. Louisa, coming from a troubled family background, is one of the first scholarship girls gaining a much prized entry to the prestigious and elite Temple House School. She is like a fish out of water, in unfamiliar territory she does not understand and not made to feel particularly welcome. What she needs is a friend to help her negotiate the pitfalls so that she can fit into this new environment and she finds that in the other worldly Victoria.

Victoria has her focus on their art teacher, and a girls boarding school is an ideal environment for rumours, rivalries, bullying, jealousy and obsessions to run rampant, one might even say more so in a religious school. Louisa and Edward Lavelle disappear in a mystery that is to remain unsolved through the years, a festering sore that ignites the curiosity of a journalist whose babysitter as a young child had been Louisa. In a tense narrative that goes back and forth through time, the revelations emerge tantalisingly slowly, the lies, secrets, the relationships, the triangles, the untold havoc wreaked by out of control emotions and the decisions that result. This is a well written, absorbing and engaging, atmospheric read that I thoroughly enjoyed. The blend of religious boarding school and teenage girls is captured remarkably well by the author. Many thanks to Atlantic Books for an ARC.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,695 reviews14.1k followers
April 15, 2021
3.5 Located in the Irish countryside stands Temple House. An elite boarding school run by Catholic Sisters, it has educated generations of girls from privileged families. Now in the 1990s they have decided to admit girls on scholarship. Louise is one of the first and from the beginning she is an outcast. Her family is not wealthy and she wears a used uniform, doesn't have the correct indoor shoes and is the target of a smug prefect named Helen. She is lonely, that is until she is taken under the wing by the wealthy Victoria and the only make around, a young art teacher. Mr. Lavelle.
One day near the end of term both Louise and Mr. Lavelle go missing. On the 25th anniversary of their disappearance a journalist will try to find out exactly what happened to these two missing people that have never been seen again.

Strong gothic undertones with a strong sense of isolation. Also explores teenage angst and infatuation along with those who are privileged, wealthy and those who are not. Peer pressure and wanting to fit in somewhere and also the requisite mean girls. The characters are ably portrayed and one gets the complete sense of all the emotions swirling within and without. The conclusion, the solution is not as apparent as one would think when reading. A debut novel that intrigues and will appeal to those who enjoy gothic novels.

ARC by Edelweiss.
Profile Image for Ceecee.
1,913 reviews1,442 followers
February 25, 2020
Temple House is a second rate girls boarding school that thinks it’s first rate or at least some of the incumbents do, especially the nuns that run it. In September 1990 Louisa, a very clever 16 year old girl, is offered a scholarship at Temple House which she accepts but she is looked down on particularly by the girls who are fee paying. In her art class she meets fellow student Victoria and her art teacher Mr Lavelle. Victoria mesmerises Louisa and it appears as if she is her only friend. They become an ‘army of three’. Lavelle is 25 and handsome in a movie star way and so of course with young feminists hormones raging several girls including Victoria fall for his bohemian charms in this well depicted school setting. What unfolds is dramatic at times and certainly mysterious as by Christmas Lavelle and Louisa have disappeared. Together? Maybe. Dead? Possibly. The case is investigated and unsolved until a journalist ex neighbour of Louisa’s becomes involved and the truth emerges. This is a story of lies and silence, love and obsession, of insiders and outsiders, of doomed friendship and loss, of sacrifice and haunting, dominated by class snobbery and delusion. The story is told from the time by Louisa and from 2015 by the journalist.

This is a well written debut by Rachel Donoghue and I’m sure we’ll be hearing her name a lot in the future as her writing is very powerful. The characters are well created although not all are likeable. Helen the Head Girl is cold, a snob, she is cruel and judgemental with a rod firmly stuck up her backside. Victoria uses people and is delusional, Louisa is a shape shifter, desperate to fit in but so uncertain of herself and unsure of what the rules are. She is very likeable as her feelings seem to be true. Lavelle is the shaman who exerts control over his fawns, then pulls back if they try for more than he is prepared to give. He is naive and probably despicable. The novel is full of atmosphere created by the coastal setting with the backdrop of the school with the nuns in their garbs and ceremony but with sharp tongues and piercing eyes. The season of autumn to winter adds an extra dimension too. The ending is very good - it is tragic, shocking and also ghostly with redemption denied by those responsible.

Overall, a very good book which is well written and which unfolds effortlessly. The emotions of the central characters comes across strongly and gives you a whole range of emotions. Highly recommended.

Thank you to NetGalley and Atlantic Books for the ARC. Publication date 20/2/20.
Profile Image for Ivana - Diary of Difference.
552 reviews702 followers
October 12, 2022
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Twenty-five years ago, a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl and her charismatic teacher disappeared without trace…

The Temple House Vanishing left me with a tiny scar in my soul after reading it. It is intriguing and mysterious, it is real and delusional. The next time when I mention a special mystery, with a cruel end – this will be the first book that pops in my mind.

Louisa and Victoria are two friends that study in a Catholic girls’ boarding school. Both of them have something unique about themselves. They can both see the world in a different light and disobey the rules slightly.

They both also manage to become intrigued with their young, bohemian teacher and act in silly ways when they are around him. Until, one night, he and Louisa suddenly disappear.

Twenty-five years later, one journalist dives into the story again, hoping to finally find out the truth. The search for truth will uncover many buried secrets and a suppressed desire. It will break hearts and lay a lost soul to rest.

This novel might be the most intense novel I have read in 2019, right next to The Silent Patient. And The Devil Aspect. To witness the life of Louisa, and be aware of what is happening around her is quite intense. As soon as she meets Victoria, they click, and they both know they will become best friends. But even Louisa can feel that there is something odd about Victoria. After all, her last best friend left the school and no one knows what happened.

On that subject – why didn’t we find out what happened to this girl?

One friendship, and a very interestingly weird love triangle. I felt so bad for Louisa, because all she ever cared about was Victoria. And all she ever wanted to do is to help in any way. She loved Victoria, but she should’ve said something. If she spoke – everything would now be different.

The teacher reminded me of one of my high-school teachers. The type of person that will show you that the world isn’t how you’ve always known it. There is a meaning behind it all, and there is a purpose for everything. My teacher, she could make me feel like I was able to achieve everything. Anything was possible, if we only followed the right path. Mr Lavelle made all the girls feel like this, and counting his beautiful face as well, it’s no surprise that most of them fell in love with him. But he encouraged them, in his own subtle way. Sweet look in the eyes, gentle touch on the shoulder, and that is all it takes to confuse a teenage girl.

What I loved most in this book was the fact that I had so many theories whilst reading it. I was certain I knew how it all ended. But I was wrong. I didn’t have a clue on what was actually happening until the very end, and I was still surprised. After finishing the book and having a little think, as I always do with books that amaze me – I realised something. The clues were there from the very beginning. But unless you already know the ending I doubt you will notice them. And that is the great masterpiece of writing. And for that, I salute you, Rachel Donohue.

If you love mysteries, thrillers, disappearances and unpredictable endings – I will guarantee you will love this book. And not only that, but you will also devour it in a day!

Thank you to the team at LoveReading UK, for letting me part of the Ambassador Book Buzz and sending me an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Check out the other amazing bloggers too!

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Profile Image for ReadAlongWithSue .
2,655 reviews170 followers
March 1, 2021

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When I saw this on my libraries audio BorrowBox as a download now with no waiting list, I remembered I had this on my book trolley waiting to be read. So, I thought I could listen to it on the run and then follow along with my book when I relax.
I just couldn’t leave this book alone.

It’s a sultry read brooding book that the narrator did very well. Based around a Catholic boarding school and the narrators voice is with an Irish accent this really married well.

I was hooked.

Young girls and all that comes with that. Friendships and secrets. Promises and Hell Mary’s.

Louisa joins Temple House and soon makes friends with Victoria.
She then gets to meet their art teacher Mr Lavelle. Each forming a bond.
It’s a strong bond and we as readers get a very good view, in fact, we have a front row seat on what’s taking place.

Then......Louisa and Mr Lavelle vanish.

Where are they?
Did they run off together?
Was their more than a teacher and pupil relationship forming?

Many years later a Journalist wants to get to the bottom of this mystery.
She had a connection with Louisa.

The journalist lived across the road from Louisas house.

This is spooky, dark, obsessive, ghostly and an absolutely stunning debut.

I can’t wait to read any subsequent books this author writes. There’s no way I would have put this as a debut.

The ending......
The ending......is not like anything I’ve read before.
Profile Image for Olivia (Stories For Coffee).
585 reviews5,590 followers
September 27, 2021
A bit of a letdown as it didn't truly showcase and explore these characters' closeness before they fell apart at the seams.

I wish we had more time with the journalist's POV as well as fleshing out the relationship between the protagonist and Victoria because I wasn't invested in them as much as I had hoped.
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
903 reviews776 followers
February 17, 2022
3.75 stars

Really interesting. Hypnotic. Didn’t go where I expected it to go, and carried an uncomfortable edge from beginning to bitter end.

Writing style: ★★★★
Sense of unease: ★★★★★
Plot/Pacing: ★★★ 1/2

As I write this review, there's a thunderstorm outside my window and we're on our 5th day of constant rain and storms. This feels almost creepily tied to the review of this book... so I'm rolling with it.

It was a dark, and stormy night...

But actually, it wasn't. It was just "a" night in the rural Irish moors when Louisa disappears from the Temple House school. The enigmatic young male teacher, Mr. Lavelle, disappears too. Many theories abound over the years as neither student nor teacher are seen again.

Did they run off together?
Was there something sordid in their closeness?
Where are they now?
What REALLY happened that school year in the all-girls boarding school?

On the 25th anniversary of the disappearances, a journalist decides to have a crack at solving the case. The students are now middle-aged women, the nuns who ran the school are dead, and Temple House itself is slated for demolition. If the case is going to be solved at all, it must be now.

But all is not what it seems, and as the layers unpeel from this gothic tale the lingering sense of unease creeps up on you. Don't get too comfortable.

I thought this was a very interesting novel. Is it a mystery/thriller? Kind of. Is it a twisted tale, meant to unearth the darkest aspects of human nature? I don't know if I'd say that. In the end, I'd say it's a character study and an exercise in the gothic classics. The Temple House Vanishing is perfect for those who enjoy Sarah Waters and Sarah Moss.

The writing style took a little getting used to, as it's very no-nonsense and deals in overt sentences laced with undertones. I found it really easy to get lost in the surface plot and glaze over some of the fine print in the details... and then that would bite me later, as those fine details were where the true story is unfolding.

A complex, multilayered dual-POV novel with a lot of interesting nuances.

Now, a brief NON-SPOILER section on the ending. As this novel is centered around a mysterious circumstance, there is a final series of reveals regarding The Truth of What Happened. I found myself surprised by the ending... and also slightly cheated... and also vaguely uneasy. It wasn't a comfortable, or frankly satisfying, ending. But it felt very real and not over-sensationalized and honestly fit right in with the overall sense of lingering unease that the novel provoked.

If this review doesn't turn you right off from the book, then I'd say you should pick it up! The target audience is on the small, niche side, but you'll have a good time here if that's your thing.

Thank you to Algonquin Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Profile Image for Roman Clodia.
2,393 reviews2,387 followers
October 20, 2019
Remember those old Malory Towers (which gets a name-check) books? This seems to revisit the school while adding in sex, a handsome male teacher, nuns, and some The Secret History-style gothic atmosphere. It definitely has a YA vibe as new girl Louise falls foul of the dress code (indoor shoes, please, for the priceless parquet flooring!) and gets some serious telling off from posh head-girl Helen. But the atmosphere darkens with death, lusty triangles and the mysterious disappearance of teacher and pupil...

This is a fun switch-off read, though the opening would have been more shocking if we hadn't seen it many times before. And it's huge fun going back to a boarding school setting where morality is off the rails. Characterisation isn't deep but it's a likeable page-turner of a tale.

ARC via NetGalley
Profile Image for Lou (nonfiction fiend).
2,771 reviews1,618 followers
February 20, 2020
The Temple House Vanishing is Rachel Donohue’s superbly unique and astonishingly outstanding debut novel; it was a real struggle to put the book down because it takes you and holds you captive with no means of escape. It is very much a brooding, slow-burn thriller rather than anything fast-paced but it remains a steadfast page-turner regardless. Set in a Roman Catholic convent in the 1990s and with a sense of nostalgia and a portrayal of the zeitgeist of the time, the story follows Louisa and Victoria, two friends who became good friends. Run by the convent's nuns, we learn that Louisa had been awarded a prestigious scholarship to the school whereas all the other attendees had their tuition paid for by wealthy parents. Victoria is the only girl who introduces herself to the newbie and keeps her company. Soon the two girls strike up a slightly odd friendship with young art teacher Mr Lavelle. Fast forward twenty-five years and an investigative reporter familiar with the case of Louisa, who completely disappeared one day, decides to play devil's advocate and begin a deep dive into the young girls vanishing act and that of Mr Lavelle at exactly the same time. Is there more to this than initially meets the eye?

From the get-go, Ms Donohue instils a creepy, foreboding and richly atmospheric tale of forbidden love, revenge, privilege, jealousy, obsession, money, greed, lust, love and so much more. Some of the 90’s references we're right my street given it was this decade in which encountered my formative years. Written in a totally beguiling style I felt that the past and present perspectives give the story a fully rounded, immersiveness to it and the two plot threads merge further into the book. The author is such captivating storyteller that it's much on impossible to turn away. This is a literary gothic mystery and reveals itself slowly; as each layer is peeled back we learn more about what happened on that fateful day and how it was rapidly buried to save face. It's about being unable to cast off the haunting glare of the past and of past sins and the characters are unexpectedly intriguing. An interesting and intelligent read that discusses some fascinating, eye-opening themes and certainly gave me plenty of food for thought. Many thanks to Corvus for an ARC.
Profile Image for Bex (Beckie Bookworm).
1,916 reviews1,221 followers
April 6, 2020

Not really sure about this one not because there is anything majorly wrong with it, it's definitely well written that I do not fault it on, its just I found it to be rather slow-moving and somewhat tedious and because of this I did find myself skimming a lot.
The language used here is eloquent and lyrical in all its descriptions of life at Temple House and you can almost imagine and place yourself centre stage experiencing the angst and total over the top dramatics and reactions that this age always seems to experience but its the very fact that nothing really happens and you are just kind of left on a precipe of expectation that never actually delivers.
In short, this sets the stage splendidly but then fails to follow through as it promises.
Its told in a then and now fashion using the eyes of Lousia herself as she traverses the pitfalls of life as a new scholarship student at this exclusive school and the now where a journalist is trying to shed some new light on the now 25-year cold case.
I myself preferred the now part of the narrative as not much seemed to happen in the past.
What kept me turning the pages ultimately was wanting to know just what happened to Louisa and her teacher Mr Lavette and though I did get closure and I liked the final ending from Louise even in a sense finding it slightly fitting that she should finish the story as she did I also found this never built enough momentum along the way to truly engage me and invest me in the events unfolding.
Though I was looking forward to this immensely, unfortunately, this was rather disappointing.
I voluntary reviewed a copy of The Temple House Vanishing.


Reviewed By Beckie Bookworm
Profile Image for Susan.
2,603 reviews599 followers
January 17, 2020
This debut involves an elite, Catholic boarding school, and the mysterious disappearance of scholarship girl, Louisa and charismatic art teacher, Edward Lavelle.

I often find myself drawn to novels set in Catholic schools – probably because I went to a convent school myself. Here we have Louisa, whose parents are divorcing, and who has decided that she wants to reinvent herself at Temple House School, but finds that she does not really fit in. Of course, there is bullying among the girls and this comes in the form of the repressed, and repressive, Head Girl, Helen. However, wild child, Victoria, soon befriends Louisa and makes life more bearable.

This novel uses the intense emotion of youth well and mixes this with the aftermath of events, as a journalist tries to uncover what really happened, all those years ago and how it affected those involved. Overall, this was an assured debut. I enjoyed the sections with the journalist more than those sections set in the past, but an interesting read with an atmospheric setting. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.
Profile Image for Louise Wilson.
2,681 reviews1,610 followers
December 28, 2019
Set in 1990.

At an elite Catholic girls boarding school, the girls live under the ever watchful nuns. Louisa and Victoria quickly become besotted with their art teacher. But then Louisa disappears at the same time as Mr. Lavette, the art teacher. Twenty five years later, a journalist is investigating this unsolved case.

This is an atmospheric tale from beginning to end. It's full of mystery and suspense. The story is narrated by Louisa and the journalists perspectives. It's full of twist and turns. The story is also told in the past and present day. The characters are well rounded. This is a great debut novel with a great twist at the end.

I would like to thank NetGalley, Atlantic Books and the author Rachel Donahue for my ARC in exchange for an honest.
Profile Image for Umut.
355 reviews164 followers
February 15, 2020
When I heard the premise of this book, I immediately wanted to read it because there's something mesmerizing about boarding school mysteries.
Temple House is an elite catholic boarding school, where Louisa is admitted because she's a genius. She makes friends with Victoria very soon after she arrives, who's also very close to the charismatic art teacher of the school, Mr. Laville. Within a couple of months, she vanishes into thin air with Mr. Laville, and 25 years after, no one still knows what happened.
The story is told from 2 perspectives going back and forth between past and present. One narrator is Louisa herself, and the other is a journalist who's writing an article about the case.

I thought the novel had a very strong start, really beautiful descriptions & a very dark atmosphere setting. The tone was successfully set from the beginning and the author carried it well until the end. It was an easy, page-turner read that also created some tension for you to want to find out what happened all those years ago.
For these reasons, I think it's a good debut and I'd read more from Donohue in the future.

However, the book didn't leave me with a feeling of full satisfaction, mainly due to a lack of deep character development. Because all this mystery was set on these 3 characters, I think it was important to have a deeper understanding to feel closer to them. The language in this sense felt distant to the characters, which left me with a sense of dissatisfaction.
Although Mr. Laville was an important character, we almost didn't know anything about him. There was a lot of mention of the school, the church, how the nuns run the school, etc. But, we never got to see any examples of it, and never got to know any of those characters. We also didn't get to know the journalist, should be an important character if she's narrating half the story. Some things came out of nowhere, just happened. For example, Victoria decided to talk to this journalist after years, but why I wondered. What made her special? There are quite a bit of blank spaces I wish to be filled.
There was a lot of tell, but not show.

Personally, I saw the end coming from early on, but still kept reading and felt the tension rising through the end.

Overall, I think there's a lot of substance in this book as a debut, and I think Donohue's writing is beautiful.

Profile Image for Miriam Smith (A Mother’s Musings).
1,503 reviews152 followers
February 2, 2020
People I know and respect have really enjoyed this book, I can understand totally how you could feel it is an incredibly written book and could easily get caught up in the characters and story but unfortunately I just didn’t get it. Couldn’t connect, endear to the characters or really get off the starting blocks with this one. I lost interest in Louisa and why she and Mr Lavelle went missing and by the end couldn’t have cared why they disappeared. I also found it exceedingly hard to believe a strict Catholic boarding school run by nuns would exist in the manner it’s depicted and have lessons run by the likes of the bohemian Mr Lavelle.
“Temple House Vanishing” by debut author Rachel Donohue is a unique story with a YA feel to it, who for the right person with an interest in dramatic teenage angst with flawed characters, will enjoy but unfortunately on this occasion it was a case of ‘its not you, it’s me’.

2 stars but that’s my opinion only.
Profile Image for Ceecee.
1,913 reviews1,442 followers
November 11, 2019
Temple House is a second rate girls boarding school that thinks it’s first rate or at least some of the incumbents do, especially the nuns that run it. In September 1990 Louisa, a very clever 16 year old girl, is offered a scholarship at Temple House which she accepts but she is looked down on particularly by the girls who are fee paying. In her art class she meets fellow student Victoria and her art teacher Mr Lavelle. Victoria mesmerises Louisa and it appears as if she is her only friend. They become an ‘army of three’. Lavelle is 25 and handsome in a movie star way and so of course with young feminists hormones raging several girls including Victoria fall for his bohemian charms in this well depicted school setting. What unfolds is dramatic at times and certainly mysterious as by Christmas Lavelle and Louisa have disappeared. Together? Maybe. Dead? Possibly. The case is investigated and unsolved until a journalist ex neighbour of Louisa’s becomes involved and the truth emerges. This is a story of lies and silence, love and obsession, of insiders and outsiders, of doomed friendship and loss, of sacrifice and haunting, dominated by class snobbery and delusion. The story is told from the time by Louisa and from 2015 by the journalist.

This is a well written debut by Rachel Donoghue and I’m sure we’ll be hearing her name a lot in the future as her writing is very powerful. The characters are well created although not all are likeable. Helen the Head Girl is cold, a snob, she is cruel and judgemental with a rod firmly stuck up her backside. Victoria uses people and is delusional, Louisa is a shape shifter, desperate to fit in but so uncertain of herself and unsure of what the rules are. She is very likeable as her feelings seem to be true. Lavelle is the shaman who exerts control over his fawns, then pulls back if they try for more than he is prepared to give. He is naive and probably despicable. The novel is full of atmosphere created by the coastal setting with the backdrop of the school with the nuns in their garbs and ceremony but with sharp tongues and piercing eyes. The season of autumn to winter adds an extra dimension too. The ending is very good - it is tragic, shocking and also ghostly with redemption denied by those responsible.

Overall, a very good book which is well written and which unfolds effortlessly. The emotions of the central characters comes across strongly and gives you a whole range of emotions. Highly recommended.

Thank you to NetGalley and Atlantic Books for the ARC. Publication date 20/2/20.
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,405 reviews989 followers
September 6, 2019

The Temple House Vanishing is a beautifully atmospheric and involving novel, written in a lyrical literary style with a mysteriously compelling story.

Louisa and her art teacher disappeared one night many years ago. In a case that engaged the nation, neither of them were ever found.

Through the voices of Louisa and a journalist writing a case study 25 years later, we learn about Temple House school, the cliques and the friendships, the social divide and the slow burn of an obsessive relationship.

This is the sort of story I fall into, the past haunting the present in this case almost literally. The truth about what happened back then is revealed in slow, delicious detail where you can almost see what’s coming, a book where at several points you stop and consider, wishing different choices were being made. The author allows you to see her characters with their flaws in full view, their own personality affecting how they interpret words and actions.

Really thought this was terrific. It’s just the kind of literary mystery I look for these days and highly recommend you consider adding it to your 2020 reading lists.

Intelligent, insightful and intriguing.

March 15, 2020
The Temple House Vanishing starts with a bang (major trigger warning), then simmers, until it boils over once again in a dramatic conclusion. It might sound like your standard girl-goes-missing mystery/thriller, but Donohue manages to use a well-worn plot to interrogate all manner of very literary themes: class, religion, jealousy. I was particularly taken with the way she presented the ramifications of our collective obsession with true crime. It’s a must read for fans of Picnic At Hanging Rock, or The Secret History.

An extended review is available to subscribers at Keeping Up With The Penguins.
February 2, 2020
Claustrophobic and unsettling tale of a mysterious disappearance and the secrets within a Catholic girls’ boarding school.

Rachel Donohue’s assured debut is a hugely atmospheric story of teenage hormones, destructive obsessions and the consequences of jealousy set in a Catholic girls’ boarding school. Complete with gothic overtones and reminiscent of the intensity of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, The Temple House Vanishing follows a journalist determined to uncover the twenty-five year old mysterious disappearance of a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl and her charismatic male art teacher.

The novel is made up of a dual narrative that goes back and forth through time opening with teenager Louisa’s arrival at Temple House, an antiquated and imposing boarding school set atop a cliff ahead of her first term in 1990. Within two months Louisa has disappeared and Mr Edward Lavelle, the art teacher who bewitched not only Louisa but all her contemporaries has also vanished. The circumstances of their departure and whereabouts to this day remain unknown with the school having closed within a year and the police investigation hindered by the pupils closing ranks and their unwillingness to talk.

Unprepared for the cloistered environment, petty rules and the overload of emotions that accompany a group of teenage girls in the confinement of a competitive and religious boarding school, Louisa is made to feel an outsider right from the start. As spiteful head-girl, Helen, quickly informs her, she has only been given the opportunity to attend the school by virtue of a ‘social experiment’ scholarship place. A world apart from her richer and more confident peers who exude a sense of entitlement it is no surprise that Louisa is drawn to the enigmatic posh girl, Victoria, who sets herself apart from the other girls. In thrall to delusional Victoria, whose ironic take on the school, her peers and the meaning of life gives her a worldliness that Louisa adores, she soon finds herself drawn into the orbit of art teacher, Mr Lavelle, whom Victoria seems to already have a connection to. As their similar outlooks and afternoons spent talking in the summer house that plays host to Mr Lavelle’s art lessons forges a bond, it draws them all into a toxic triangle with powerful consequences as delusion, obsession and unspoken truths fester.

When a journalist decides to revisit the event and illustrate the wider implications on the lives of all involved she has little belief that she might find answers but knows full well that Victoria is her best chance of understanding missing Louisa or the the intense friendship that bound them. With Victoria hiding her damaged psyche under a career as a successful businesswoman and having kept her silence for a quarter of a century, as the journalist edges closer to the truth she also bears witness fo Victoria’s instability and the incredible toll that those two months at Temple House have taken on her life. The unnamed journalist never intrudes on the uncovering of the disappearance beyond telling of her childhood home’s proximity to Louisa’s house and the frequent tabloid anniversary revisits to the case which have kept the mystery so relevant to her. Despite learning little about the person driving the quest for answers I liked the unobtrusive and non-judgemental narrative she provided which made her, together with readers, feel like an impartial observer.

Although the story didn’t initially grab me, opening as it does with the first-person narrative of Louisa which is rather heavy on navel-gazing and frustratingly low on facts to grasp hold of, as soon as the part of the journalist begun I felt the novel exerting its pull. Throughout the novel it was the narrative of the journalist which I found myself most absorbed by and the promise of progress in a twenty-five year old mystery, but I confess that Louisa’s rumination on the meaning of life was a bit out of my depth and at times dragged, making the pace feel uneven.

Whilst the story might be familiar, the construction, evocative descriptions and understated writing of Rachel Donohue elevate it far beyond the average and together with the unsettling atmosphere made the novel hugely compelling. A poignant and powerful story full of emotion and an author whom I hope to read more of.

With thanks to Readers First who provided me with a free copy of this novel in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.
Profile Image for Nigel.
803 reviews90 followers
February 15, 2020
In brief - I was a little unsure about this one to start with however it's very well written and highly atmospheric to me.

In full
Temple House is a private Catholic school set on cliff tops in Ireland. Twenty five years ago a 16 year old girl and her arts teacher went missing and no trace of them was ever found. Nuns and prefects kept a very close eye on the girls - the atmosphere is repressive. Those who do not "fit in" are treated as outsiders. Enter Louisa, Victoria and Mr Lavelle - are they pretentious or independent spirits? A journalist who, as a very small child, lived close to Louisa - the girl who disappeared, looks for a story around the 25th anniversary of the disappearance.

For me this book took a slightly unusual approach which I'm still not sure about. The first thing we get is Victoria's current story. She is the girl who did not go missing and this part is dramatic. After that we hear Louisa's story in part then the journalist's take on what she finds out. The book then takes parts of each of their stories. It intrigued me but I did find it a little odd. As it started in some senses at the end.

Throughout this book I felt there was a real sense of foreboding which impressed me. The best bits are excellent. The main characters in this were well worked. The whole story felt very evocative of time and place. On some level this is rather an ordinary story. Young girl and her arts teacher go missing from a private Catholic school. 25 years later a nosy reporter decides to dig the story up again and find out what really happened. I guess I came to this book thinking that was the story. But it isn't really! This has far more to it than some I've read with a similar outline. It's about people who "fit" and people who don't; people with blinkers and those without. It is also about love and growing up and maybe some of the cracks in society.

Sometimes - though rarely - the publisher's hype lives up to the story. I think this is one of those cases. There are flaws here I think however overall this is a worthwhile read. It didn't grab me straight away but when it did it didn't let go!

Note - I received an advance digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair review
Profile Image for BookNightOwl.
975 reviews169 followers
July 28, 2021
Louisa is awarded a scholarship to all Catholic boarding school. There she meets a girl who becomes her best friend name Victoria. Victoria let's her in on a little secret. She is going to run away with their art teacher, Mr Lavelle. So when Louisa and Mr Lavelle disappear everyone is left stunned as to what could of happen. 25 years later a journalist who grew up on the same street as Louisa goes back to revisit the past. She wants to find out what really happened to Louisa and Mr Lavelle.

I love this mystery Gothic vibe of a school set in the middle of nowhere. I like the alternating points of view of Louisa and 25 years later of the reporter. A+

Thank you Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill for providing an ARC of this book for an honest review!
Profile Image for Mary.
1,414 reviews490 followers
July 10, 2021
It is hard to believe that The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue is a debut novel. This is a quick, gothic, and atmospheric read that caught my attention from the very first page and didn't end the way I thought it would. I love anything set in a boarding school, and the setting in a remote area of Ireland really heightens the loneliness and sense of isolation in this novel. The book alternates between the viewpoint of Louisa in the past, and a journalist in the present who had gone to the same elementary school as Louisa, so they have a bit of a connection. The journalist's viewpoint is very interesting as it is told entirely in first person just like Louisa, but you never find out what her name is. There is also a great prologue at the beginning that I ended up having to reread when I was done to get the full impact of what it was telling me. This was a very unique read and so was Donohue's writing style. The synopsis says it is good for fans of Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas and I would 100% agree with that. They both have a unique premise and writing style, and I got the same vibes from both of them.

The audiobook of The Temple House Vanishing is narrated by Jennifer Fitzgerald & Clodagh Duggan, and while I was happy there were 2 narrators for the 2 different viewpoints, the audio itself was rather strange. Voices would randomly change along with the pitch of their voices, and I couldn't tell if it was the 2 different narrators, or if 1 of them was just changing their voice to match a different character. Because of this, I would probably say to read this one as opposed to listening to it, but that didn't actually take away from my enjoyment of the novel as it sometimes can. And I also thought their voices did fit the story and the characters, so that part was great. There is definitely some obsession going on in this one, and I was really intrigued by the dynamic between Louisa and Victoria. I really enjoyed both points of view, and I was also really happy with the way they are formatted in the novel. This is a promising start from Donohue, and I will be looking forward to hopefully reading more from her in the future!

Thank you to the publisher and Libro.fm for my advanced listening and reader copies. All opinions and thoughts are my own.
Profile Image for Karen Mace.
1,817 reviews66 followers
February 20, 2020
I read this via Pigeonhole.

This was a dark, unsettling slow burn of a read that really explores the complexities of obsessive love and teenage girls. How growing up can be so tangled and traumatic, and how the art of love can cloud the judgement of those involved.

The story centres around a school where a teacher and young student went missing 25 years ago and the scandal has never really died down. So when a journalist gets the chance to investigate the story a little deeper, even she isn't prepared for what she's about to find out.

The story is also told from the viewpoints of the girls from the elite Catholic boarding school - Louisa and Victoria - who were involved at the time with the art teacher Mr Lavelle and his influence on them and other girls under his 'charge'. This was always the unsettling part of the story for me - a teacher taking advantage of his position, knowing full well that the young girls were battling with their own identities and feeling vunerable. The more you read into the story though, the more you understand just how vindictive and manipulative that teenage girls can be!!

With the mystery into the whereabouts of the teacher and student being told slowly, we get to hear how the events affected everyone then and now - how they were seduced by personalities, probably in rebellion to the strict rules imposed on their day to day life at the school. This art teacher gave them the chance to express themselves more - some may have just taken that a little too literally!

I did find the 'to and fro' way of story telling a little confusing at times, and that may have affected my ability to connect more with these characters. They came across as quite heartless and that made it difficult to bond with them, but maybe that was their age showing and it was all just a front to save themselves from hurt. They were quick to put up walls to protect themselves when needed and that was how they dealt with the world around them. None of them wanted to appear vunerable as others would have taken advantage of that fact.

The viewpoint of the journalist was an interesting aspect - she had a vague connection with one of the girls and the area so that helped her delve a little deeper than others had gone, and she often seemed shocked by what she found out. Looking back at life at the school between the girls just goes to show how vicious young women can be - girls are evil!!! But they thought they were in love! They were deluded and their powers of rational thought had long gone so the consequences often proved to be more brutal than they should have been.

An interesting study of characters and a brooding read!

Profile Image for Michelle.
651 reviews184 followers
July 15, 2021
There are two types of girls who go to Temple House. The legacies who come from prominent families and the scholarship students whose talents shine bright enough to get them noticed. Victoria is part of a long line of women who have attended the school. When Louisa arrives she is drawn not just to this charismatic teacher that a lot of the girls have a crush on but also to Victoria. She revels in being noticed by her, being chosen to take part in Victoria and Mr. Lavelle's excursions.

When both Louisa and Mr. Lavelle disappear at the same time rumour has it that they have run off together. But Temple House is closed mouthed and its familes and have circled their wagons. It is now 25 years later and a journalist who grew up in the shadow of Louisa's disappearance has decided to dig for clues into this life-long mystery. She visits the school, talks to former students and staff as well as the police who investigated the case. She scours the internet for clues and direction. A new picture starts taking shape. The vision of Mr. Lavelle as a charming fellow who could break anyone out of their shell starts to fade as people who knew him describe a man with a darker side with many secrets to hide. Was he capable of harming Louisa? Is it possible that both he and Louisa are dead? Did Victoria or oneof the other girls act out in a fit of jealousy? To what extent is Temple House complicit?

The Temple House Vanishing is written in dual timelines. The present is narrated by the journalist and the past by Louisa. I found the journalist chapters more intriguing as they dealt directly with unravelling the mystery. Overall the book is well written, but the pacing was very slow. I can see the parallels between this book and Kate Elizabeth Russell's My Dark Vanessa. Atmospheric and brooding, I would recommend this book to people who like gothic novels.

Profile Image for Ellis.
1,208 reviews134 followers
September 26, 2021
Boarding house teen girls having heady, inappropriate relationships with older teachers and a surprisingly poignant ending. "How did my story unfold? I have had ample time to think about this. My life is like a book, one that is read too early when you are not quite ready for the ideas it contains and you put it back on a shelf. All that remains is some sense of a theme. And a promise to yourself that you will try to read it again, some other time.
Occasionally, I think my story was about shame and what it makes you do, both to others and to yourself. Then at other times I think it is about love and how it is a sickness. That love is a taking over of your being by something alien, someone else. It is a death of the person you were before. You do things you otherwise might not. You are not yourself.
Or maybe that is obsession, a love unuttered. I can't really tell which is which anymore. Maybe there is no difference."
Profile Image for Eva.
803 reviews416 followers
June 12, 2020
Well, I can’t exactly say my 20 Books of Summer is off to a flying start. That is not to say The Temple House Vanishing is a bad book. It is just extremely slow (OMG so slow!) and not at all what I was expecting from the book description. Now, I don’t mind a slow burner but in this instance, it didn’t take me very long to feel like this book just wasn’t for me. Yet I was determined to finish it.

Twenty-five years ago, Louisa and her art teacher disappeared from a boarding school. Now, a journalist with a remarkably flimsy childhood connection to Louisa wants to shine a light on this disappearance and maybe solve the mystery of what happened.

Louisa has never quite fitted in anywhere. Her high grades always singled her out. But it’s those grades and a scholarship that secured her a place at Temple House, a boarding school run by nuns who seem more intent on making sure the students follow their strict and repressive rules as opposed to actually getting a decent education. Here too, Louisa is an outsider from the first day she arrives. She doesn’t come from the right family; isn’t classy, important or rich. But then she meets Victoria and charismatic teacher Edward Lavelle. Victoria seems to be somewhat of a free spirit. She chooses to go her own way, not mingling with the rest of the students but mostly hangs out with Edward Lavelle. The art teacher is by far the most difficult to figure out but it’s obvious that the catholic school setting he finds himself in isn’t for him. And that’s without taking into account all the raging teenage hormones that surround him.

I found that I couldn’t at all connect to any of these characters and I never really felt like I knew them. I admit I got to that point where I just didn’t care what had happened to them. On top of that, I didn’t particularly feel that the mystery surrounding their disappearance was that hard to figure out. That said though, Rachel Donohue did create a gothic atmosphere that I enjoyed and the setting of a boarding school will always fascinate me. Her writing is also extremely beautiful, almost lyrical at times. But too often, I was left with questions. Gaps that needed to be filled somehow. I could give examples but that would be too spoilerish.

All in all, I was quite obviously not the right audience for this novel but if you like literary fiction, I think this will appeal to you.
Profile Image for Sheri.
619 reviews19 followers
November 26, 2019

The title and the cover attracted me, and I’m a sucker for stories set in schools, even if the basic plot - teenage girls, a charismatic male teacher - didn’t sound, on the face of it, all that original.

We open - shockingly - with the suicide of one character, before moving back in time to 1990 when Louisa, a clever sixteen year old, wins a scholarship place - as a weekly boarder - at Temple House, an elite convent boarding school. Set on a cliff top, it’s all “Victorian turreted austerity”. The nuns who run it, Louisa observes, are the opposite of what they should be, favouring the richest girls and requiring adherence to a list of often absurd rules. Basically, the school is not a great place to be, particularly for the new scholarship girls - an “experiment” who are constantly reminded of their lesser position in the hierarchy.

Things soon look up for Louisa when she meets art teacher Mr Lavelle (young, handsome and charismatic - what were those nuns thinking?) and intense fellow student Victoria. The two girls form an almost immediate, powerful friendship which becomes the only thing sustaining Louisa through the many challenges of life at the repressive Temple House. However, things will come to a dramatic end when one of the girls and a teacher inexplicably disappear.

In the present day, an unnamed journalist becomes fascinated by the unsolved mystery and determines to find out more about what happened.

It’s beautifully written with many evocative phrases and descriptions - the atmosphere of the school and its often overwrought inhabitants powerfully rendered.

For a story largely set in a school, there are really rather few characters here: Louisa, Victoria, head girl Helen and Mr Lavelle are the only ones with a significant role to play, along with “the journalist” in the present day. (I’m mildly annoyed that we never learn her name.)

Ultimately the somewhat weak and vain Mr Lavelle is rather irrelevant; this is Louisa and Victoria’s story. And the end, when it comes, feels unusual and in some way beautiful.

An entrancing read.
Profile Image for alailiander.
183 reviews31 followers
September 20, 2019
A little bit Shirley Jackson, a little bit Virgin Suicides, a little bit Lovely Bones, a little bit Rebecca … I’m not sure; there was a lot that felt familiar about this one, but definitely not derivative. I really enjoyed it.
Some of the blurb for this one feels a bit misdirecting, but maybe that is better for the reader; it leaves room for twists and other reveals to be effective.
We meet Louisa as she starts at Temple House, a moody Catholic boarding school. She’s like many teenage girl protagonists; insecure, lost, a little emo. But she’s better wrought than most. Through her we meet Victoria and Mr Lavelle. The characterization of Mr Lavelle is perfectly done, from the start he is enigmatic in an uncomfortable fashion and a perfect trope for what comes later. Victoria … I’m a little more torn about. I guess I wanted to see more of what was to come, but as Louisa is our narrator we share her blind spots even if we sense the danger earlier on.
The Journalist’s frame narrative really worked for me – breaking Louisa’s reverie with a divergent but sympathetic adult voice puzzling along with the reader.
The prose is atmospheric and a touch bracing – truly in keeping with the narrators’ characters. The setting is painted incredibly well except in one aspect. I wish it geographically located more specifically. Excluding a few word choices so much of this could be US, UK, Ireland… A little more specificity there would have helped ground it for me.
This same story in the hands of a lesser writer would have been very cheap thrills and teen melodrama, but instead – the narration at the end, the enigmas of Victoria and Mr Lavelle – they work great here. The whole thing just comes together beautifully.
And, happy surprise – the Epilogue is absolutely awesome.

My thanks to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for the arc to review.
Profile Image for Susan Hampson.
1,522 reviews57 followers
February 9, 2020
Louisa thought that she would have been treated like an equal at Temple House after she had won a scholarship there, but the attitude of the other pupils let her know differently. They, after all, were students whose parents had paid for their right to be there, but there was one exception, a pupil who befriended Louisa. Victoria was different and so was the young art teacher, Mr Lavelle where soon a dangerous friendship developed between the three of them.
Although this is partly set in the 1990s it actually feels quite dateless, that is perhaps because I have no personal experience of Catholic schools that were run by nuns. Even the girls seem of a time period way before when it is set.
Twenty-five years later, a reporter that knew Lousia before she had attended the Catholic school decides that a long enough time has elapsed since Louisa went missing from the school the same time that the art teacher vanished too and she is determined to find out what really happened.
As the reporter begins to dig and ask questions the past seems to creep up on you rather than jump in your face with all the answers. My conclusions were continually changing, from certainty to impossible, from the guilty to the innocent. The majority of the characters are teenagers with raging hormones that make everything more intense. It is a very atmospheric read where being surrounded by fellow pupils can be the loneliest place. You know that something has to give but it was more shocking than I had thought.
I wish to thank NetGalley and the publisher for an e-copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly.
Profile Image for MaryannC. Fiendish Book freak.
485 reviews106 followers
February 24, 2020
A suspenseful and gothic debut from Rachel Donohue about an elite Catholic girls school named The Temple House where 25 years ago Louisa and her handsome art teacher Mr Lavelle disappeared. A precocious intellect, Louisa has won a scholarship and looks forward to escaping her family after her parents divorce and she is left to pick up the pieces of their broken lives. Once at Temple House Louisa meets Victoria and her handsome swoon worthy art teacher, Mr Lavelle. As Louisa settles into her new life away at school she is quickly made to understand that she does not come from the same wealthy stock as her counterparts and will never be despite her praised intellect. Secrets begin to emerge of a past student as well as about Mr Lavelle whose relationships with the students comes into question and puts Victoria and Louisa's friendship to the test. Recommended.
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