by Jen Moyers (@jen.loves.books)
Rachel Donohue's The Temple House Vanishing is an atmospheric, gorgeous novel about the friendship between two girls and the charismatic teacher who lies at the center of their relationship. Louisa is the new girl at the Temple House, a scholarship girl who is made keenly aware of the disparity between her and the other girls at the school from her first day. Victoria is the rebel—their teacher Mr. Levelle calls her an "outlier," someone who is unconcerned with rules or expectations. Victoria immediately draws Louisa to her, makes her want to impress her and to earn her friendship.
The novel is told in alternating sections, beginning with the unsolved disappearance of Louisa and Mr. Levelle decades before. Donohue unravels the narrative, focusing alternately on Louisa's experience as a new student and the way she is drawn into the web of Victoria's relationship with Mr. Levelle. The other point of view is a journalist who grew up on the same street as Louisa—she's a few years younger, but that proximity has always made her intrigued by the disappearance, and she decides to write a story revealing the truth of what happened so long ago.
I was captivated by this book, by its haunting atmosphere, by the vividness of Louisa's experiences, by the way Donohue uses the investigation to peel back layers on the story. I loved the questions it unspools about memory and love and connection. It's a beautifully written, thought-provoking, and compelling novel.
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