The House at the Edge of Night

The House at the Edge of Night

by Catherine Banner


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“A perfect summer read [that] brims with heart . . . Don’t be surprised if you keep turning the pages long into the night, spellbound by its magic.”—The Denver Post

A sweeping saga about four generations of a family who live and love on an enchanting island off the coast of Italy—combining the romance of Beautiful Ruins with the magical tapestry of works by Isabel Allende.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY NPR • Los Angeles Public Library • Kirkus Reviews

“Captivating . . . [Catherine] Banner’s four-generation saga is set on an island near Sicily, where myths of saints get served up with limoncello at the Esposito family’s bar. . . . The island is fictional, but consider this dreamy summer read your passport.”—People
“A lusty page-turner that weaves romance, rivalry and the intricacies of family expectations into one glorious tale.”Minneapolis Star Tribune

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 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.

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.

Praise for The House at the Edge of Night

“A gorgeous, sweeping story set over four generations . . . calls to mind Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Beautiful Ruins.”Interview

“Like pictures of a childhood summer, or a half-forgotten smell, this book is sweet and heady with nostalgia . . . [and] comforting as a quilt.”—NPR
“Rich and immersive, this book will take you away.”Vox

“A masterful piece of storytelling, infused with the miraculous (both in stories and in everyday life) while maintaining the difficult balance between the explainable versus the inexplicable . . . captivating and beautifully rendered.”—Sara Gruen, author of At the Water’s Edge

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812988130
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/20/2017
Pages: 448
Sales rank: 191,126
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Catherine Banner was born in Cambridge, England, and began writing at the age of fourteen. She has published a trilogy of young adult novels. She studied English at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, and has taught at schools in the United Kingdom. The House at the Edge of Night is her debut adult novel. She lives in Turin, Italy, with her husband.

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part one

Excerpted from "The House at the Edge of Night"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Catherine Banner.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Reading Group Guide

1. At the beginning of the book, Amedeo is “a foundling . . . a penniless jobbing physician” who “inhabited the world as bare as he had come into it, with no wife, no friend except his foster father, no descendants.” What do you think it is about the island of Castellamare that appeals to him?

2. Father Ignazio warns Amedeo that “a small place like this is an oppression. . . . Everyone who visits without having been born here thinks it delightfully rustic. . . . But anyone born on Castellamare will fight by any means possible to get off the island.” As an outsider, does Amedeo romanticize the island? Why do you think there is tension between those who are born on Castellamare and those, like Robert and Amedeo, who arrive as strangers? Have you ever experienced this difference of viewpoint in a place you have visited as a tourist?

3. Amedeo opens the bar, the House at the Edge of Night, after the uproar over the two babies forces him to give up his position as doctor. What do you think of the way the community handles this “scandal”? What about the way Carmela is treated by her neighbors, and by Amedeo?

4. For Amedeo, his book of stories is his most important possession, “full of the bright vistas of a thousand other lives.” The House at the Edge of Night draws inspiration from many real collectors of Italian folktales, including the real—life doctor Giuseppe Pitrè. What do you think is the significance of the folk stories in the book, for Amedeo, and to the community of Castellamare? Do you have any favorite stories that hold significance for your own life? Why do you think we, as human beings, are so drawn to storytelling?

5. When Maria—Grazia is young, she must work hard to assert herself as an individual in Castellamare, partly because she is a girl, and partly because everybody sees her as “the girl in leg braces.” What do you think are the challenges of growing up as a woman in a community like Castellamare in the early twentieth century? How does a visible disability, such as Maria—Grazia’s leg braces or Concetta’s childhood seizures, contribute to those challenges?

6. During the 1920s, Fascism threatens to divide the island, especially when Castellamare becomes one of Mussolini’s prison colonies. The islanders react to this in different ways. Some turn away from what is happening in an effort to keep the peace with their neighbors—-as Gesuina says, “We’ve all got to live together after this”—-while others, like Pina and Maria—Grazia, refuse “to look away.” Which response do you think is right? How would you have reacted to the danger of il conte and his Blackshirts if you were living in a small Italian community at the time?

7. In postwar Italy, the recovery process eventually led to a period of prosperity and peace. However, many of those who held positions of responsibility under Fascism continued to hold those positions after the war. What do you think of the ways in which the island attempts “to heave itself upright . . . to shake off the dust of war”? What do you think are the main factors that contribute to reconciliation after traumatic historical events?

8. Sergio and Giuseppino grow up in a very different world to the Fascist, interwar Italy of Maria—Grazia’s childhood: “Sergio and Giuseppino had been born in the very flourishing of the island’s -prosperity. As they grew up, Maria—Grazia marveled at the life they inhabited.” How do you think this affects the relationship between Maria—Grazia and her sons? Have you ever experienced a similar disconnect between different generations in your family or community?

9. Do you think the arrival of tourism and greater prosperity on the island in the second half of the twentieth century is a good thing for Castellamare?

10. Throughout the book, some characters remain on the island and some characters leave. Maria—Grazia, like Pina, has different views of the island at different stages in her life, but ultimately makes her peace with her hometown. How has your view of your hometown changed at different periods in your life?

11. Do you think Lena should have left the island to train as a doctor, or stayed? Why do you think the choice is harder for her than it is for most of the male characters, for example, Flavio and Giuseppino? What do you think that women gain and lose by deciding to stay in the place in which they are born?

12. In many families, like the Esposito family, women make sacrifices in order to enable younger generations to survive or prosper. This was the case for Pina, and in some ways for Maria—Grazia. What obstacles have been successfully removed between Pina’s lifetime and Maddalena’s, and which have remained? Do you see a difference in opportunity between different generations of women in your own culture?

13. Maria—Grazia has an important role in Maddalena’s life, and ultimately passes the bar to her granddaughter. Women were not often part of the “recorded history” in the periods that this book spans, and the book is in many ways an “alternate history” of those times, centered on the lives of the women of the Esposito family. Do you think the novel is feminist? Can storytelling change our perceptions of women’s place in history?

14. The starting point for the novel was the 2008 financial crisis, and this is where the book ends. What were your experiences of this period of our recent history? Do you see similarities in what happened to the community of Castellamare and what happened in the wider world?

15. Over the course of the book, the House at the Edge of Night survives two world wars, Fascism, the economic boom of the 1970s and ’80s, and ninety—five years of the Esposito family’s personal history. Studies show that family businesses worldwide rarely survive to the third or fourth generation, though in Italy the figure is higher. Do you think the bar would have survived after the end of the book?

Customer Reviews

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The House at the Edge of Night: A Novel 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 23 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very enjoyable read. Persons familiar with Italian heritage as well as WWll history fans will be engrossed.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved all the characters even as we traveled through the decades. That doesn't always happen. Well written and a feel good book to enjoy with a cappachino or an italian red wine by the fire.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A beautiful story of love, family, and traditions told over multigenerations. Heartfelt and thoughtprovoking
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm usually hesitant to read family sagas as they seem too dense and just too much in general. This one is different. I was drawn in and found myself really enjoying the world created in its pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So many generations and so many twists; happy and sad. Loved the whole book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
tors of the old country.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed this book immensely.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Would recommend
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Very different from usual read, but interesting enough to grab my attention from first
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm so surprised this book hasn't gotten more attention. It was fabulous! Great characters along with a great story! I was captivated! Highly recommend!
Mirella More than 1 year ago
On a small island off the coast of Italy is a small close-knit community. Their society revolves around a cafe dubbed The House at the Edge of Night. It is run by the Esposito family. The story revolves around a young doctor who comes to Castellmare to begin his practice. There he meets and marries a young woman and raise a family. And so begins a tale that spans 100 years of the doctor's family as they face adversity by the economy, an unscrupulous count and his wife, and a colorful cast of townsfolk. If you like family sagas like I do, then this is one to read. With its authentic Italian flavor, beautiful descriptions, and ever-developing characters, this became one of my favourite sagas. I loved it! I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you for visiting my blog,, where the greatest historical fiction is reviewed! For fascinating women of history bios and women's fiction please visit
Gail-Cooke More than 1 year ago
All manner of praise has been heaped upon Catherine Banner’s adult novel debut following her trilogy of young adult novels. We read that it is a knockout debut “grounded in both reality and myth, plotted on a grand scale.” And, “ is a masterful piece of storytelling,” plus “a superbly written drama.” It is all of that and more as Banner tells a story about four generations of a family set against world events from 1914 - 2009. We are taken to a tiny island off the coast of Sicily, the fictional island of Castellamare. It is there that Amedeo Esposito moves to become the town physician in the early years of the 20th century. He marries well - a beautiful, intelligent, school teacher Pina Vella. Unfortunately for him Amedeo had a wandering eye and loses his position following an affair with the mayor’s wife. In order to earn a living he and Pina reopen the bar in the years empty House at The Edge of Night. It is there that three generations of Espositos will serve coffee and limoncellos to residents and visitors. The Espositos work in the shadows of World Wars I and II, the Fascist period, and the financial crisis of 2009. Banner has enhanced her plot with a bit of the magical sprung from the island’s many legends which have been collected in a red leather book given to Amedeo by his father. Actor Edoardo Ballerini delivers a prima narration of this spellbinding story, an enchanting tale peopled with engaging characters and events that bring us to the present day. Quite simply The House At The Edge Of Night is a remarkable journey - don’t miss it!
IoanaN More than 1 year ago
It's been a while since I last read a book that captivated me from the very beginning. I was entangled in the history of the island and its inhabitants, I took notes to not forget characters' names, and I was living the slow paced life of Castellamare. The novel reminded me a bit of those Spanish or Italian novels with their long family-tree, all the neighbours and acquaintances, everybody knowing everybody, the public opinion of the community influencing the development of a person's life. Add to this the mythical stories, the legends, and ungrounded fears of the locals, and you get a mix of history, past, mythological, and modern that makes you long for the old past. The novel's plot starts a few years before the World War I and carries well into the 21st century, until 2009. The central element, as the title suggests, is the House at the Edge of Night, which is a bar. It was bought by Amedeo, one of the main characters, when he came on the island and it's been in the family ever since. It has a strong attraction for the islanders, and it managed to stay in business through both Wars and through the economical crisis of 2007-2009. It is also a symbolic figure on the island: it has history and mystery. I loved to see how characters grow old and adapt to the new developments. People of Castellamare don't live a rushed life, but they are interested in being up to date with what happens in the world. The island is like a separate world, where even time flows differently. As most novels I read, this too had that thing I didn't like: it went steady for about three quarters of the book, then the pace picked up and it felt a bit rushed towards the end. This is something I sense happening with almost every novel. This time, though, this rush felt appropriate for this novel. This reminded me of a Romanian novel which in the end stated that "time was no longer patient with people". Also, the events of the late 20th and early 21st century seem to rush time, and this novel "gets" that so well. All in all, I really liked this novel. So far it has been one of my favorite books of the year, for sure! I received a free e-book copy of this novel from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts expressed here are my own.
Nylak More than 1 year ago
Honestly, as of now, I haven't finished this book yet, but I'm rating it now because I don't know if or when I will be able to get through all of it. I started reading it over a month ago, and I'm barely at the halfway mark because it's so dull. To get as far as I am, I've to make it so that it's the only book available to me, and I've still had to skim much of it to stay awake. Needless to say, I'm disappointed. Note: I received this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways.