The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner
Random House, 2016. Hardcover, 419 page.
After penning a trilogy of young adult novels, Banner has written her debut adult novel. The House at the Edge of Night is a sweeping saga of a family on a remote Mediterranean island off Sicily’s coast, the fictional Castellamare. The novel opens with Amedeo Espositio, the patriarch of the featured family, and both his background and arrival on the island to serve as the doctor. It was not easy for the new doctor to fit in and his acceptance was gradual. But once the island considered Amedeo one of theirs, he was forever in their hearts. He would marry one of the island’s own, Pina Vella, and start a family. However, he also had an affair just before his marriage with the wife of the island’s count that has lasting consequences and cost him his job.
Through Amedeo and his children, readers can see how life on the island transformed. Shortly after his scandal broke out, Amedeo bought the island’s’ only cafe, which would become the heart of the community, and raised his family. His sons desired to leave for greater things, first leaving the island due to being called to serve in World War II. It would be daughter Maria-Grazia, who struggled with early medical issues, that would play the pivotal role. Having no desire to leave, she would take over the family cafe, The House at the Edge of Night, and run it for her parents. Maria-Grazia’s descendants would grow to play larger roles in the novel as they aged. However, in those early years they faced many struggles, ranging from opposing the fascists on the island to assisting a downed British paratrooper to maintaining a food supply during war. Later, we see the struggles between Maria-Grazia and her husband Robert’s two children and how it altered life yet again.
Throughout the novel, there are many struggles to overcome. Amedeo’s indiscretion. A cruel count who starts and fuels a feud with the Espositos. Two world wars. Disabilities and post-traumatic stress disorder. Also, several characters must learn to live with the consequences of their actions, both good and bad. Plus there is also the struggle to maintain traditional ways while also changing to adapt to the modern era. And many friendships are formed and tested throughout.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel! The primary characters that drive the novel, Amedeo and Maria-Grazia, are both relatable and have a way of entering your heart. Each have faced and overcome both personal and professional struggles. As for the life depicted on the island, it is very true to that part of the world as I can attest since part of my mother’s family were/are immigrants from Sicily and I know well the way they like to gossip, hold grudges, and latch onto superstitions just like the islanders of Castellamare. I also like how spanning nearly a century allowed readers to see how the modern world affected the island and showed how many traditions were still being maintained. Additionally, the writing was lyrical, flowing, and very descriptive. And I liked how Sicilian folktales were incorporated. Over all, The House at the Edge of Night was a very character-driven novel, whether the character was human or the island itself.
Do you think you will read this novel? Do you enjoy character-driven books? How about ones that demonstrate significant changes throughout history? In regards to the latter two questions, do you have a similar book to recommend?
The copy reviewed was provider by the publisher. It was released on July 12, 2016.