The Temple House Vanishing

Rachel Donohue. Algonquin, $16.95 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-6437-5027-9

Irish writer Donahue’s atmospheric debut explores unrequited love, obsession, and disappearance in an Irish boarding school. In 1990, 16-year-old Louisa’s test scores earn her a place at the prestigious Temple House, situated in a Victorian manse on a gloomy seaside hill. The dour nuns and the head prefect ensure the reputation of the school for mainly rich and privileged girls is protected from inside defilement, as does snobbish classmate Helen, who bullies Louisa. She remains an outsider until she meets the beautiful, enigmatic student Victoria, and Mr. Lavelle, the school’s heartthrob art teacher. As Louisa, Victoria, and Mr. Lavelle form a clandestine clique, they become enmeshed in a messy triangle that has implications for the entire school and ends with the disappearance of Mr. Lavelle and Louisa. Years later, on the 25th anniversary of their disappearance, an unnamed journalist working on a story about the episode aims to make readers feel like the events “could have [happened to] them.” It isn’t until the journalist interviews Victoria, now a divorced, successful businesswoman, that the reasons behind the disappearances become unearthed. The creeping pace, melancholic tone, and full-bodied characters create a perfect snapshot of desperate youth amid oppressive tradition. This stands among the best of the current modern gothic trend. (July)