The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue ★★★★☆ #BookReview #BookBlog

Primary Genre(s): Mystery, Thriller
Published: 6 July 2021 (in the U.S.) by Algonquin Books
Page count: 320 (print)
My Format: ebook and physical book
Cover: Haunting
Pacing: Good
Ending: Tragic  
Do I Recommend: Yes
Commission Link (U.S.): Buy The Temple House Vanishing

My rating: ★★★☆

Synopsis
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.

My Thoughts
I was invited to participate in a blog tour for this book by the publisher. Here my pros and cons for The Temple House Vanishing:

Pros

  1. I would describe this book as a 1990s Boho mystery with a large dose of Victorian Gothic. Bet you’ve never read a book like that before!!
  2. The gothic element of the book was great. There are nuns running a private school for girls in an old, decrepit mansion… and people mysteriously go missing!!! That is a perfect recipe for a gothic mystery!
  3. The story is told via alternating voices and time periods. One narrator is Louisa, the girl who goes missing. She tells the story about her time at the school before she disappears. The other narrator is a journalist who is writing a story about Louisa 25 years after she went missing. The alternating voices and timeframes melded together beautifully to slowly, but clearly, divulge what happened to Louisa and her teacher.
  4. There is a subtle, but interesting examination of status in this book. The school is primarily made up of paying “rich” girls, but there are scholarship students (like Louisa) as well. The scholarship girls are definitely disparaged and derided. Girls can be so cruel when they are teenagers, and this book definitely included that trope.
  5. The author has a particular skill with words. She is telling you all kinds of things throughout the narrative if you pay very close attention.
  6. The second half of the book was mesmerizing. I couldn’t put it down.
  7. The ending was tragic and heartbreaking, yet wholly satisfying. It almost ended on a strangely hopeful note, which seems odd to say for a tragedy, but that is how I felt. And even though I predicted the ending (see Con 1 below) it was still great to read how the author presented the conclusion.

Cons

  1. In Pro 5 above, I mentioned that the author provides veiled, yet detailed, info about what happened at Temple House throughout the book, and I thought that was clever. But that also gives away the ending if you pay attention. At least it did for me. I knew how this ended at about the half-way mark.
  2. The first part of the book was a little slow for me.
  3. I wanted just a little bit more character development. Victoria, Louisa, and Mr. Lavelle were phenomenal characters, but they felt a little thin to me. I wanted more development between the girls, particularly regarding their relationship with each other.

Summary
This is a great gothic tragedy and it is the author’s debut novel. Even though I had a few criticisms, I did enjoy the book very much. I look forward to reading the author’s future work.

I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys books with a gothic feel, mysteries, boarding school stories, tragedies, missing persons stories, or stories about journalists solving mysteries.

Thank you to NetGalley and Algonquin Books for a free copy of this book, which I have reviewed honestly and voluntarily.  

If you would like to read this book and form your own opinion, please consider purchasing through this link: Buy The Temple House Vanishing. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

Click here for a description of my rating scale.

(image from Goodreads)

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