I read The House at the Edge of Night while overlooking the sea off a beautiful Greek island, so I know I’m biased—but I think that even had I read this book in my dingy London flat, it still would have swept me away to the island of Castellamare.
The House at the Edge of Night, Catherine Banner’s debut adult novel (though she’s been writing YA since she was a teenager herself!), has been out in the UK since May—but the US edition just launched today. That’s the beautiful US cover on the left! Initially, Banner set out to write about the 2008 financial crisis and its effects on a small Italian island, but the more she researched into the events leading up to the crisis, the more stories she found to tell. The House at the Edge of Night tells those stories: spanning 95 years, it follows four generations of the Esposito family living on the Italian island of Castellamare.
The central characters come and go—they grow up, they move away, they settle down—but no matter how attached you may become to them, you don’t miss them when they’ve gone. That’s because it is the island itself that is the main character of this novel—or rather, it is the family’s bar: The House at the Edge of Night.
Reading The House at the Edge of Night did show me quite how many gaps in my knowledge have emerged since I last studied the world wars, as I found myself reading what should be familiar European history as brand new! Over the course of the century spanned in this novel, the island and its inhabitants pass through some crucial periods of history—and seeing how those events would have affected families like the Esposito family actually made me want to go back and dig out my old History textbooks, which is quite an achievement as I hated History at school!
The House at the Edge of Night is a slow and gentle novel, but an absorbing one all the same. It is the story of a small place at the mercy of European history beyond its shore; of individuals at the mercy of a larger community. One of my favourite quotes from literature comes from Wallace Stegner’s All the Little Live Things: “There is a sense in which we are all each other’s consequences.” Catherine Banner’s beautiful novel felt to me like the embodiment of that quote.