I had some high hopes and mixed feelings about The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue. On the surface it ticked all of my “summer reading” boxes: A book set the late 1990s where a sixteen-year-old girl and her teacher disappeared from a remote Catholic girls’ boarding-school housed in a cliffside old mansion in Ireland? A journalist who knew her as a small child wants to look into it during the current day? Yes, please! That’s the literary version of clickbait.
All of those elements were there, thankfully. I loved the creaky old house they lived in and the rustic grounds. The nuns were suitably surly. There was the charming new friend, the new student with the wrong shoes, the “is he creepy or not” teacher, the single and a little odd journalist who is super intent to getting to the bottom of the case.
All great bits but I have to admit I was a little let down by the book. It’s told from alternating points of view, that of the journalist and the missing girl. Unfortunately they had very similar “voices” and it was almost difficult to to tell who was doing what at times which is strange because their lives were quite different. If their voices were different, I would have felt like I cared more about them but for the first quarter I was almost wondering if there was going to be some twist and they were going to be the same person. There was a slight twist I guess since Louise, who had gone missing as a child, narrated a lot of the book (how was that possible?) but what happened to her was fairly predictable.
The writing just seemed unnecessarily opaque and had little immediacy. I actually thought maybe it was translated from a different language and the translation was stilted but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
It was very atmospheric and it that is what you are looking for in novels over character development and plot, you will probably enjoy it more than I did. The scene setting and the feeling of being in a boarding school far from home as a scholarship student did seem quite real.
I read an ARC thanks to Netgalley and the publisher, the book comes out tomorrow, July 6, 2021.