Hennessy New Irish Writer of the Year 2017 signs major two-book deal
The Temple House Girls by Rachel Donohue, a mystery set in an elite Catholic girls’ school, comes out in 2020
Rachel Donohue: “I am delighted to be working with Sara O’Keeffe and the Corvus Atlantic team. The welcome they have given me feels like a first-time author’s dream”
Rachel Donohue, the 2017 Hennessy New Irish Writer of the Year, has signed a major two-book deal with Corvus, an imprint of Atlantic Books.
Her debut, The Temple House Girls, an upmarket mystery set in an elite Catholic boarding school for girls in the 1990s, will be published as a lead title in early 2020.
Editorial director Sara O’Keeffe, who bought the rights from Ivan Mulcahy of MMB Creative, said: “ I fell in love with this book from the first page, with its brilliant web of relationships and almost cult-like gravitational pull. It is a novel awash with dark colours, glorious images and dangerous emotion. And always, there is a sense of the nuns, those inky spectres, hovering just out of view but forever watchful. This is a unique and compelling debut – absorbing, complex, riveting. It has just a dash of The Secret History; but also echoes of Picnic at Hanging Rock. Perhaps the best comparison might be to say that it is a sort of twisted Malory Towers for grown-ups. But it remains very much its own creation. We are hugely excited to publish The Temple House Girls.”
The school becomes mired in rumours of a scandal suppressed; a 17-year-old schoolgirl and her charismatic 25-year-old male art teacher have disappeared without trace. Donohue takes us back to the months before the disappearance and gradually excavates a dark and complex tale of sexual longing and jealousy, confused and all the more intense for being hidden. Donohue brings alive the consequences of such yearning in a highly repressive environment.
The author said: “I am delighted to be working with Sara O’Keeffe and the Corvus Atlantic team. The welcome they have given me feels like a first-time author’s dream. Their publishing ambition for The Temple House Girls is thrilling and builds in an exciting way on the vision that my agent Ivan Mulcahy and I have had for the book.”
Mulcahy said: “As soon as Sara O’Keeffe had discussed her response to and ideas for The Temple House Girls with me, I knew that we had found an ideal publisher for Rachel’s debut. This is an intense, gripping, short book that can appeal to a huge potential readership. It should be published with high ambition and that’s what I sense in Corvus’s plans.”
Donohue won the overall Hennessy New Irish Writer of the Year award, as well as the Emerging Fiction prize, in February 2017 for her story The Taking of Mrs Kennedy. The judges were writers Mike McCormack, Elizabeth Day and Ciaran Carty Dubliner Donohue, who was shortlisted for the Hennessy First Fiction Award in 2013 and the Hennessy Emerging Fiction award in 2014, said: “This story really began as a ghost story. I wanted to capture the sense of shadows under a seemingly perfect life. Caravaggio’s painting The Taking Of Christ fed into this mood of a dark fate and along with it came the idea of betrayal.”
Read The Taking of Mrs Kennedy by Rachel Donohue