Louisa didn’t know that attending Temple House boarding school would change her life, just that it would take her away from her dull neighbourhood, and her separating parents. Victoria changed everything. From the moment she saw her in the summer house, Louisa’s life changed course and she became something new, different.
This beautifully atmospheric dark drama is full of moody setting and passion-filled youth. I immediately get Rebecca vibes from the writing, and from me that is a sublime compliment. The Gothic tones and corrupt understory both blend into an artistically thrilling piece of fiction. As I read this story, other works which came to mind were The Talented Mr Ripley, Twin Peaks and The Dead Poet’s Society, although The Temple House Vanishing is neither derivative nor overdone in any aspect.
The story is simple, but the writing is so rich and the characters so enigmatic that you don’t waste time worrying about the complexity of plot. Louisa is written with such a deft hand; I think all young dreamers who once thought that their life could be a decadently tragic poem will relate to her. The feeling of bohemian glamour that clings to both Mr Lavelle and Victoria is almost Gatsbyan in it’s smoked-filled gilded glory.
Lavelle is a beautifully flawed character, and I found the question of his responsibility and personal character to be one of the most intriguing aspects of this book. It is so easy to look on cases like the disappearance of Lavelle and Louisa and assume, no – know that the man is the predator; after all, he was a teacher in his twenties and she a 17-year-old student. However, I love that this book brings into question whether that is always the case, without also making him blameless and perfect. There is no question that as a teacher Mr Lavelle crossed boundaries, not clever with how far he took his artistic interests with the students. But was he a monster?
If I absolutely had to make a complaint about this book, I would say that I would have like more time with Victoria and Louisa at the school, and less with the journalist. To be honest, I think I would have enjoyed the book solely in the 90’s timeline. However, I liked the suspense that was added with the knowledge that no one would know what had happened to Louisa and Mr Lavelle for over 20 years.
The physical book is beautiful as well, and I adore the size, shape and feel of this hardback. The cover is eye catching and the whole book is high quality, from the slipcover to the rich end-papers.
I would absolutely recommend this book to any reader of modern literature, especially those who loved Rebecca and other poetic Gothic classics. If I could give it more than 5 stars I would.
The Mushroom Forest - 09/03/2020
Twenty five years ago, Louisa won a scholarship to the elite Catholic Temple House boarding school, run by nuns. She and another student Victoria formed strong friendships with the bohemian art teacher Mr Lavelle. One day, though, Louisa and Mr Lavelle just vanished. What became of them? Fast forward to the present day, and a journalist is now investigating whether they ran off together, or whether tragedy struck. As she interviews witnesses, the true story slowly unravels. The result is a gripping analysis of social classes, romantic obsessions and friendship cliques. The dark tone (and creep setting of the sinister school) are a perfect match of the tale. And the achievement is even more impressive when you bear in mind that this is the author’s debut novel – definitely one to watch out for in the future!
liccyh - 16/02/2020
This is a mystery. It features two timelines by two narrators that of 16 year year old Louisa set in the 1990 and the journalist who is investigating her and Mr Lavelle's disappearance, which was set in 2015.
In 1990, 16 year old Louisa gets a scholarship to Temple House, an elite Catholic boarding school while her parents go through a divorce. She befriends a popular student Victoria who is infatuated by Mr Lavelle, their young charismatic Art Teacher. However, the infatuation leads to dire consequences as later Louisa and Mr Lavelle disappear.
In 2015, a journalist who lived across the street from Louisa investigates their disappearance as it marks the 25th anniversary. She researches and finds an interesting lead that gives an insight to what really happened.
I liked how the author gave two first person narratives because it makes you have a greater understanding of all the characters and it created suspense.
Ru1984 - 11/02/2020
I think that this book is a very good debut novel, it kept me guessing until the very end. The story is about a troubled girl, Louisa, whose parents have seperated and her Mother has gone off to live with another man. Louisa is sent to a new boarding school, Temple house, part of Louisa is relieved to be leaving her broken family behind and starting a new life, it is here that she meets Victoria and thier teacher Mr Lavelle. The three of them form a strong bond together, although possibly somewhat inappropriately on the teachers part, Victoria is in love with Mr Lavelle, Louisa is in love with Victoria, definitely a recipe for disaster, jealousy, control and tempers get out of hand until both Louisa and Mr Lavelle vanish together. Many years later a journalist looks into the case of the missing couple again and turns up some interesting surprises!
An excellent page turner!
dmv - 11/02/2020
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.
Rachel Hall - 02/02/2020
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.
MIRIAM SMITH - 02/02/2020