The House at the Edge of Night was the first book I read in 2018, and I am happy to say that 2018 started off with a bang!
Author: Catherine Banner
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Random House
A sweeping saga about four generations of a family who live and love on an enchanting Mediterranean island off the coast of Italy—combining the romance of Beautiful Ruins with the magical tapestry works of Isabel Allende.
Castellamare is an island far enough away from the mainland to be forgotten, but not far enough to escape from the world’s troubles. At the center of the island’s life is a café draped with bougainvillea called the House at the Edge of Night, where over generations the community gathers to gossip and talk. Amedeo Esposito, a foundling from Florence, finds his destiny on the island with his beautiful wife, Pina, whose fierce intelligence, grace, and unwavering love guide her every move. An indiscretion tests their marriage, and their children—three sons and an inquisitive daughter—grow up and struggle with both humanity’s cruelty and its capacity for love and mercy.
Spanning nearly a century, through secrets and mysteries, trials and sacrifice, this beautiful and haunting novel follows the lives of the Esposito family and the other islanders who live and love on Castellamare: a cruel count and his bewitching wife, a priest who loves scandal, a prisoner of war turned poet, an outcast girl who becomes a pillar of strength, a wounded English soldier who emerges from the sea. The people of Castellamare are transformed by two world wars and a great recession, by the threat of fascism and their deep bonds of passion and friendship, and by bitter rivalries and the power of forgiveness, in this richly written and powerful novel.
Catherine Banner has written an enthralling, character-rich novel, epic in scope but intimate in feeling. At times, the island itself seems alive, a mythical place where the earth heaves with stories—and this magical novel takes you there.
Set on the island of Castellamare off the coast of Italy, The House at the Edge of Night is a multigenerational family saga that follows the Esposito family over the span of the 20th century. Castellamare is a remote island with a sparse population. Needless to say, this book is very much about small island living & all the drama that it entails. We watch the islanders survive life of the island through two world wars, the threat of fascism, recessions, births, deaths, marriages, heartbreaks, and miracles. The House at the Edge of Night covers themes like loss, forgiveness, scandal, friendship, rivalries, family and love.
One of the drawbacks of multigenerational family sagas is often that the character development suffers as the different descendants come to the forefront of the story. I would like to ease your fears that this is not a problem in this book. The story first follows Amedeo as the main character, then eventually the story goes down the line of his descendants from children, to grandchildren, to great-grandchildren. I always felt connected & invested in each of the characters as the story shifts to follow a different descendant.
If you enjoy books where the setting is a big part of the book, this book is for you! Not only do we get beautiful descriptions of the island of Castellamare, but we also get to see the family home/business as a central part of the book. The House at the Edge of Night, the local “watering hole,” was the heart of the island. People from all over the island came there to eat, drink, celebrate, and to pass the time. It really was almost like a character in the book. We watch the running of the bar pass down from generation to generation and see all the ups and downs the come along with running a family business. It was also interesting to see the progression of the island community throughout the course of the century. Since Castellamare is a remote island, technology was slow to arrive on the island. We get to see technological advances like the motor bikes, television, and even the first computer come to the island. Life on Castellamare is not always the paradise you’d imagine though, we also get to see the financial struggles of the community & how they needed to adapt to transitioning into a tourist destination to save the economy on the island.
Culture, folklore, and superstition are prevalent elements in The House at the Edge of Night. From the yearly festival of Sant’Agata – the unofficial patron saint of the island – where the locals host a celebration & heave a heavy statue of Sant’Agata around the coast of the island, to Amedeo keeping a record of the folklore & stories of the island passed down from local to local, I was completely enamored with this story. This book was heavily inspired by Sicilian & Italian folklore, and I could really sense that Banner has a fascination in this area.
The House at the Edge of Night is a gem of a book. I wish it had received more attention when it came out in 2016. It breaks my heart that it has under 5,000 ratings on Goodreads. I’m wondering if the original cover has anything to do with it? I personally like it, HOWEVER I could see where it could put some readers off.
The first cover is the original, the second cover was the paperback cover that was released summer 2017. I actually think the paperback cover that was released summer 2017 is a better fit for the story. I also think people would be more open to reading the paperback cover vs. the original.
Covers aside, people need to give this book a go! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed, I sure wasn’t 🙂
Catherine Banner was born in Cambridge, UK, in 1989 and began writing at the age of fourteen. She studied English at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, before moving to County Durham where she worked as a secondary school teacher. She has previously published a trilogy of young adult novels, The Last Descendants. She currently lives in Turin, Italy, with her husband.
Her debut adult novel, The House at the Edge of Night, tells the story of the 2008 financial crisis and 95 years of European history through one family and their bar on a tiny Mediterranean island. It has been published in 22 languages, and was listed as a Kirkus Reviews and NPR best book of 2016. Her second novel will be published in the summer of 2018.
Catherine is a member of Italian PEN and PEN Writers’ Circle. She is also the writing consultant for Project VOICE, a not-for-profit creative writing project which aims to provide a platform for development, peace, social care and humanitarian workers to tell the stories of their work in their own countries, in their own words.