Twenty-five years ago, a sixteen-year-old schoolgirl and her charismatic teacher disappeared without trace…
In an elite Catholic girls’ boarding-school the pupils live under the repressive, watchful gaze of the nuns. Seeking to break from the cloistered atmosphere two of the students – Louisa and Victoria – quickly become infatuated with their young, bohemian art teacher, and act out passionately as a result. That is, until he and Louisa suddenly disappear.
Years later, a journalist uncovers the troubled past of the school and determines to resolve the mystery of the missing pair. The search for the truth will uncover a tragic, mercurial tale of suppressed desire and long-buried secrets. It will shatter lives and lay a lost soul to rest.
The Temple House Vanishing is a stunning, intensely atmospheric novel of unrequited longing, dark obsession and uneasy consequences.
This was a very strange book. I attended a girls catholic convent in the late 1960s during which time the nuns changed slightly. I wouldn’t say the changes were dramatic but by 1967 we called them Sister instead of Madam and they shortened their habits to just above the ankle. I think they also showed about an inch or two of hair at the front (some orders shaved their hair under their veils – I don’t think ours did – at least not when I left in 1969). It would be a couple of decades before they started wearing ‘civvies’. They were still strict and unworldly and the boarders (I wasn’t one) had it worst. I couldn’t believe they were only allowed to bathe twice a week and wash their hair once a week. Whatever happened to cleanliness is next to Godliness. We used to smoke in the area behind the netball court and sometimes under the stage during choir practice (we weren’t in it at the time obviously). We NEVER had male teachers. It was unheard of.
But back to the story. Apart from the girls liking Morrisey, this could have been set in the 1960s (or even 50s as someone commented). Why anyone would want their girls to go there I cannot comprehend. However I loved this book. The story of Louisa’s obsession with Victoria and Victoria’s obsession with the art teacher Mr Lavelle is beautifully written and really rather sad. It starts with Victoria’s suicide and then goes back and forth, the story being told by the girls themselves and also a journalist who vaguely knew Louisa, trying to uncover the truth. Some of my fellow Pigeons found it rather slow as the story takes a long time to unfold, but I found it dark, sinister, mysterious and creepy but utterly mesmerising.
Many thanks to the Pigeonhole for giving me the opportunity to read along with my fellow Pigeons and the author.