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I first heard about The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue from a recent R.J. Julia newsletter in which she shared her bookstore staff’s favorite pics. It sounded like a book I’d like to read, so I ordered it right away. And it was satisfyingly what I was hoping for: dark, heavily atmospheric, reminding me of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier, except this story is set in Ireland in the 1990s and is about the madness of adolescent obsession.
Lonely Louisa comes to Temple House, a private Catholic school run by nuns. She’s a scholarship student, so is ostracized and bullied by anyone who is anyone at the school. With her parents’ recent divorce, Louisa feels angry, conflicted, and lost, like she belongs nowhere.
She meets Victoria, a pretentious, sophisticated, seemingly confident girl who appears to have a special relationship with Mr. Lavelle, the gorgeous young art teacher. Intent on impressing Victoria and Mr. Lavelle, Louisa attempts to fit in, with her writing, her literary choices, and her conversation all tailored to please.
Jealousy among Mr. Lavelle’s favorites builds tension that leads to a public declaration of love by one student that sends the school into a spin. And shortly after, Mr. Lavelle and Louisa vanish into the mist one night never to be heard of again.
Twenty-five years later, a journalist who used to live on Louisa’s street decides to uncover the truth. Did Mr. Lavelle and Louisa really run away together? Is there more to the story that Victoria’s been keeping back all these years? The journalist begins digging and asking questions and finds a story darker and more disturbing than anyone imagined.
If you like dark, mysterious, atmospheric tales set by the seaside, you will enjoy The Temple House Vanishing.
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