Book Review

The Temple House Vanishing

The Temple House Vanishing

  • Author: Rachel Donohue
  • Genre: Mystery
  • Publication Date: July 6, 2021 
  • Publisher: Workman Publishing

Thank you to libro.fm for providing me with an ALC of this book. I am offering my honest opinion voluntarily.

CONTENT WARNING: suicide, bullying, violence

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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 25th 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.

Told through alternating points of view, Rachel Donohue’s debut novel skillfully, gradually, lets the listeners into the hearts and minds of both Louisa and the determined reporter. This pause-resister is perfect for fans of Elisabeth Thomas’ Catherine House or Kate Elizabeth Russell’s My Dark Vanessa.

At first glance, this story has all the elements that would have made it a perfect match for me. Added to the fact that the narrators (Jennifer Fitzgerald and Clodagh Duggan) have gorgeous Irish accents, I should have enjoyed this book so much more than I actually did. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t a good match for me and I probably would have DNFd if I didn’t just love hearing the soothing tones of the voices of the narrators . Here’s why:

The characters. I struggled to connect with any of the characters. It took me far too long to get interesting in any of them, and I barely cared about what happened to them. Which obviously made it hard to get invested in the story.

The pacing.The story was slow-moving, and took forever to develop. There was some jumping around between present and past, and it felt a little choppy to me at times. I kept waiting for something to happen, but very little actually happened except right at the beginning and end of the book.

The reveal. It felt like the entire book was building up to this huge reveal as to what actually happened to Louisa and Mr. Lavelle. But when the end came and the events were finally revealed, it was kind of disappointing. It wasn’t overly difficult to figure out what had happened, and it was almost disappointing to realize that I had seen signs of it along the way. By the time the reveal came about, I honestly didn’t even care about why they had disappeared anyway. 

Ultimately, I was disappointed by the story. The best part of this entire book, for me, was the narrator’s accents. Granted, this is just my own personal opinion, and there seem to be so many rave reviews of this. You may absolutely love this book, but I absolutely suggest listening to the audiobook version. The accents are lovely.

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