The Temple House Vanishing Summary and Reviews

The Temple House Vanishing

by Rachel Donohue

The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue X
The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue
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Book Summary

At the Temple House School, nothing is as it seems. One day, a student and teacher disappear from the all-girls boarding school housed in a Victorian mansion in Ireland. Now, twenty-five years later, a reporter is determined to find out what happened in this skillful page-turner, perfect for fans of Kate Elizabeth Russell's My Dark Vanessa.

At Temple House, nothing is ever as it seems.

Louisa is the new, brilliant scholarship student. Finding most of the other students at the all-girls Catholic boarding school as icy and unfamiliar as the drafty mansion, she forms a fierce bond with the intense and compelling Victoria, an outlier and student provocateur.

Their close bond is soon unsettled by the young, charismatic art teacher, Mr. Lavelle—igniting tension and obsession in the cloistered world of the school. Then one day, Louisa and Mr. Lavelle disappear.

There is no trace of either one. It's the unsolved mystery that captivates the whole country. Year after year, the media revisit it, and the conspiracy theories persist. Now, on the twenty-fifth anniversary, a journalist—a woman who grew up on the same street as Louisa—delves into the past to write a series of articles and uncover the truth. She finds stories of jealousy and revenge, power and class. But will she find Louisa and Mr. Lavelle, too?

Because remember—at Temple House, nothing is ever as it seems.

Paperback Original

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The creeping pace, melancholic tone, and full-bodied characters create a perfect snapshot of desperate youth amid oppressive tradition. This stands among the best of the current modern gothic trend." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Rachel Donohue is an enchanting writer. Her words seem, at first, innocent and straightforward, but then it becomes apparent that they are doing mischievous things. As Mr. Lavalle, a central character in her impressive debut The Temple House Vanishing, points out: 'It's important to remember that here, nothing is ever as it seems.'" - The Sunday Business Post (Ireland)

"Donohue is a master of clean, sharp prose, and has a hugely impressive ability to create layers of atmosphere or ratchet up tension in a couple of beguilingly simple sentences." - The Irish Times

"This brooding tale of obsessive love, teenage jealousy and hidden desire has a dark charm all of its own…While the unsettling atmosphere is enough to keep the pages turning, Donohue also does a fine job of holding parts of her story back. When the shocking solution is finally revealed, it is in the sort of circumstances that all but force the reader to return to the beginning to marvel at how the trail was laid." - inews.co.uk

This information about The Temple House Vanishing shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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Rebecca H. (Bolton, CT)

The Temple House Vanishing
This eerie mystery told in dual timelines and from dual points of view evokes a darkly menacing atmosphere from the beginning. The setting is Temple House, an isolated, gothic structure originally the home of an eccentric collector and later a school for adolescent girls run by nuns in an isolated part of Ireland. In the present day, the school is deserted and decaying. The year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the disappearance of Louisa, a scholarship student and outsider, and the young, charismatic art teacher Mr. Lavelle. Their vanishing is still a mystery, but a young reporter is determined to revisit the event by interviewing those close to the pair. In particular, there is Helen, former prefect at Temple House and adolescent enemy of Louisa, now a wealthy socialite, and Victoria, an emotionally unstable academic who was the student closest to both Mr. Lavelle and Louisa. The story is told from the viewpoints of the young woman simply called the Journalist and of Louisa, the vanished. The author does an excellent job of revealing the obsessive nature of the relationships between characters as the story alternates between the present day and the past. The all-consuming character of adolescent love with its loneliness, jealousy, and obsessiveness, is explored along with the clash between the artistic sensibilities of Lavelle, Victoria, and Louisa and the oppressive Catholicism of the nuns. The writing is excellent and the claustrophobic atmosphere builds to a final explosion as the mystery is revealed in the ending pages. This novel will certainly provoke some interesting discussions among book club members.

Patricia T. (Fallbrook, CA)

The Temple House Vanishing
Temple House, a Catholic Boarding School for Girls; an isolated location by the sea, dangerous cliffs, lashing waves, a perfect setting for a psychological thriller, with a touch of the Gothic. What happened all those years ago, when scholarship student Louisa disappeared at the same time as art teacher Mr.Lavelle. Best friend Victoria knows but is not telling. 25 years on a journalist with a connection to Louisa wants to find out, the trail is cold, but she persists, and she succeeds.

A great story, beautiful prose, which flip-flops back and forth between the three protagonists very effectively. The tension builds slowly, as does the character development, towards an ending with a very satisfactory twist. I read this book over two days, just had to find out what happened. Recommended it highly.

Kimberly C. (Ypsilanti, MI)

Mesmerizing
Rachel Donohue's first novel draws you in from the beginning pages and grips tight throughout its moody twists and turns. Her story of love, friendship and betrayal at a girls' boarding school is haunting and compelling. The writing is gorgeous but sparse, with few wasted words. It's a powerful debut.

Sharon P. (San Diego, CA)

Compelling Literary mystery
What fascinating characters!! I was expecting more vapid 16-year olds, but I found these young women—Louisa, Victoria (and even Helen)—to be complex and compelling. I was hooked at the premise of them all orbiting around their attractive and deep art teacher. While it's be many decades since I was 16, I could recall that kind of intensity and importance that comes with being a young woman. I loved how the book got weirder and weirder as the chapters went on pulling me deeper and deeper into the mystery and the deliciousness of the range of possibilities of conclusions. I would have loved to have a bit more insight into Mr. Lavelle's thinking, but the. Again, maybe that would have taken away from some of the mystery. Well done!

Bonne O. (Hartwell, GA)

NOTHING IS EVER AS IT SEEMS....
In the opening prologue, I was intrigued by the way the reader is immediately drawn into the 25-year old mystery of the vanishing student and male teacher. Temple House has its share of prejudice, cliquish girls, petty jealousies' and ultimately lies and betrayal. The methodical unfolding of the teenage love fantasy provides the perfect storm for a dramatic event. Once the mystery is revealed, the reader is promptly compelled to re-visit the prologue in order to get the full impact of the conclusion of the story. I particularly liked the way the author tied up all the loose ends.
Because this story has several underlying themes I believe it would be ideal for a book club discussion.

Chris (CA)

What a Debut!
What an engrossing, suspenseful, intense novel. The writing is terrific with beautiful descriptions. It was as if I could feel what the characters were feeling. Teenage angst, female friendships. how easily feelings are hurt, "mean girls," rule breaking, confusion, attraction, and differences in social class were written about realistically I felt as though I had been dropped into this school and was experiencing what they were experiencing. I disappeared into that boarding school. I learned about life in a boarding school run by nuns. The author also makes you think about the life-long consequences of keeping secrets. It's hard to believe this is a debut novel. There are many complex topics for discussion for book clubs, therapists, peer groups.

...18 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Rachel Donohue

Rachel Donohue lives in Dublin, Ireland, where she works in communication and media relations. In 2017 she won the Hennessy New Irish Writer of the Year Award for her short fiction. The Temple House Vanishing is her first novel.

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