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The House at the Edge of Night

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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.

419 pages, Hardcover

First published July 12, 2016

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About the author

Catherine Banner

5 books302 followers
​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 published a trilogy of young adult novels, The Last Descendants.

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.

Her work is translated into 24 languages. She lives in Turin, Italy, with her husband.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,432 reviews
Profile Image for Angela M .
1,276 reviews2,213 followers
June 27, 2016
I loved everything about this book from the first to the last page. It's not mind bending, earth shattering, or gut wrenching, and I didn't walk away with any big message . It is however , an engaging multigenerational family saga spanning almost a century and I found that I didn't want to put it down. There was not one minute that I wasn't interested in Amedeo Esposito , his family and their life on Castellamare , a five mile island off the coast of Sicily, so small that your neighbors know things about you before you do .

Amedeo, was an orphan , a foundling who was helped along the way in Florence by a caring doctor. He comes to the island in 1914 when he is 40 years old to take the position of island Doctor, but more importantly seeking a place he could call home and the life he has longed for. He finds that home and that life when he marries Pina and together they build a family and a business in the cafe/bar The House at the Edge of the Night. But life on the island is not always idyllic. People are not perfect and it is Amedeo himself who creates some scandal on the island. There are wonderful characters you will love with a couple of exceptions among the inhabitants of Castellamare . A place isolated from the modern world, immune to most of what happened outside of but not the changing tides in Italy. The outside world creeps in in the form of the fascisti as the island becomes an out post for Il Duce's prisoners and the sons are called to war.

An integral part of the story is Amedeo's love of stories - stories of saints and miracles, of fantasy and curses and real stories of the past. He makes a practice of recording in a red notebook , the stories he's told from when he was a child through his adult life. This beautiful collecting and telling of these stories which the author tells us in a note are based on Italian folklore.

You don't have to believe in miracles or magic, you only have to believe in the people of this island , the Esposito family over the decades and the townspeople because it's their humanity that made the everyday miracles in this story. It's a story of a family legacy - The House at the a Edge of the Night and the red notebook of stories they pass on. Catherine Banner clearly has a talent as a story teller and has created a beautiful story with an amazing sense of place and characterizations . Highly recommended.

Thanks to Random House Publishing Group - Random House and NetGalley.
Profile Image for Jen CAN.
475 reviews1,308 followers
October 23, 2016
I love stories within stories - stacked inside each other reminds me of those Russian dolls and how they all fit together. This is such a story.
In the Mediterranean, between Africa and Sicily, lies the small island of Castellamare. A remote place where it is said to have had weeping curse put on it from centuries past.
This is a sweeping saga of 4 generations of a family, the Espositos. The secrets, the relationships, the flawed characters and the links that brought them together as well as separated them.
Spectacular imagery, an air of mystery, rich with folklore stories, this was divine read. 5*

Profile Image for PorshaJo.
442 reviews657 followers
February 7, 2017
I loved this book. I loved the beautiful cover which initially drew me to this book. I loved the story, the sweeping saga over many generations of the Esposito family. I loved the audio narration, Edoardo Ballerini is an amazing narrator and he adds so much to the story. I loved the House at the Edge of Night, surrounded in bougainvillea. I want to go there, sit in the cafe, and drink limoncello.

The House at the Edge of Night is a magical story told over many, many years about a small island called Castellamare. One day, a young man arrives on the island to be the island doctor. He is Amedeo Esposito and at some point, he purchases the House at the Edge of Night and restores the cafe for himself and all of the islanders. He eventually marries and has children. The story told is about his life, his children and their lives, and his children's childrens lives. But more importantly, it tells the story of all of those that live on the island and at times, visit the island. There are so many wonderful characters in this story. The House at the Edge of Night seems to be the heart of the island, the gathering place for the locals, and the place at which many generations of Espositos live and work.

When I saw the cover, I was intrigued. I read a few GR friends reviews and sought out the book. I love, love, love Edoardo Ballerini as a narrator so I knew I had to listen to this one via audio. He does such an amazing job with all the voices, the pace is perfect, and his voice lends to that magical quality of this entire book. I saw many lists of the 'best covers of 2016' and was sadly shocked to see this book did not make the list. Nor, did it make many top read's lists - except by many on GR. I could have had more of this wonderful story, tell me more about the next generation of Espositos. A highlight for year end 2016 and first 5-star read for 2017. And one I will read again in the future.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,694 reviews14.1k followers
July 22, 2016
Once upon a time there was an enchanted island, called Castellamare, located off the coast of Sicily. Within the island was an enchanted place, a home but also a meeting, eating and drinking place for the islanders, call the House at the edge of night. The island people worshipped their patron saint, Santa' Agata and on her name day celebrated with parades and great feasts. Families lived on this island for generations and many of them we as a reader are fortunate to meet. It begins with the arrival of a young giant of a man, Amedeo, a doctor who after a few missteps will find a home and love on this island. Will create a family and collect the stories, the folklore that the people cherish.

What a wonderful and fun read. This is a place, only the second after Three Pines of the Louise Penney books that I wish I could visit. Feel like I could walk up to these quirky wonderful characters, recognize each one and feel right at home. From this island we experience the war, the depression, marriages, deaths, happiness and sadness. The birth of new generations, the heartbreak when one decides to leave and make their home away
from the island. The sights, the sounds, the beautiful scenery, the fishing boats, the old men and women, the young. Loved the way this was told and wish I didn't have to leave, think quite possibly like many on the island I too would have happily stayed.

ARC from netgalley and Random House.
Profile Image for Julie .
4,000 reviews58.9k followers
February 7, 2017
The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner is a 2016 Random House publication.

This book came highly recommended by several of my Goodreads friends who described the book as a family saga, so I knew I had to check it out.

This story is centered around the Esposito family living on the island of Castellamare in Italy. The island is remote, but has its own fiefdoms, power struggles, and is fraught with personal family dramas and scandals.

Beginning with Amedeo Esposito, who arrives on the island as the first doctor the island ever welcomed, but eventually opens ‘The House at the Edge of Night’, a bar/café which becomes a center point of the island where the residents gather for fellowship, communication and of course gossip.

The story follows Amedeo, his wife, Pina, and their children as they go through wars, conflicts, financial fallouts, and personal issues within marriages and families, which entails sibling rivalry, jealousy, love won and lost, and found again.

I absolutely love, love, love, family sagas! Sadly, sweeping sagas are far and few between these days, but perhaps wonderful stories, like this one will inspire more interest it them.

This is a beautiful story, rich in details with incredibly well drawn characters which makes it so easy to become immersed in the story and to care for the Esposito family. I found myself completely wound up in their dramas, the amazingly beautiful setting, the culture, and the realistic portrayal of human beings with all their foibles and strengths.

This is a powerful and lush story filled with charm and enhanced with folk tales and tradition. I never wanted the story to end, but was so happy with the family’s perseverance in the face of adversity, the way they came together and remained committed despite the challenges they faced.

I was impressed with the storytelling here and believe this is a story anyone can enjoy. I wish there were many more novels like this one!!

Profile Image for Linda.
1,194 reviews1,243 followers
August 21, 2016
I received a copy of The House at the Edge of Night through NetGalley for an honest review. My thanks to Random House Publishing and to Catherine Banner for the opportunity.

Sometimes, just sometimes, we wish to lay with elbows bent in front of a fire encased in the warmth of a sage storyteller who leans mind-to-mind into our cozy space. Because, dear reader, it is all in those simple words.

Catherine Banner presents a story set in the Mediterranean island of Castellamare. The ancient isle is surrounded in rugged volcanic rock, the ruins of earthquakes of long ago, tiny fisherman boats bobbing in the waves of the bay, and landscaped with people who bear the fine honing of those who came before them.

One of those well-sculpted people is Amedeo Esposito. Amedeo knows abandonment first hand as a foundling. He is taken under the wing of the town's doctor and whittled into a medico through deep trial and error. Amedeo surrounds himself with his collection of artifacts and his ability to touch deeply into the heart. He meets the stoic Pina and they soon marry. And slowly the stories pour out upon the page as Castellamare is affected by world wars, disease, birth, and death. "For his own spirit these days could be precisely divided - half of it light and fathomable, half as dark and deep as the ocean."

The House at the Edge of Night is just that......the rising of the sun in one's life and the eventual darkness at the end of life's day. Banner writes beautifully and describes so well the inner workings of a simple life complicated by the intrusions of the world. The characters will stay with you long after the last page. Involved and yet uninvolved. Simple and yet complicated. Banner leans into the story and you will as well.
Profile Image for Dem.
1,184 reviews1,080 followers
June 10, 2020
What a beautiful Reading Experience........ an enchanting and sweeping story set over four generations. Sometimes a book just needs to tell a story and that is exactly what The House At The Edge Of Night does.

I love books set on Islands and Catherine Banner's story set on the tiny, idyllic island of Castellamare is beautifully written with an extremely likable cast of characters that stay with you long after you have turned the last page.

This is a quite novel, no major dramas or twists or turns, just a beautiful well written story with interesting characters. A story where very little happens and yet everything happens over a span of four generations. 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.
I loved following the lives of the Esposito family and the other islanders and really got a sense of time and place of Castellamare.
I ordered the Hardback edition of this Book and so happy to have this one on my bookshelf.

I had a rating of 5 starts in my head through the first 350 pages of the Novel but I did find the last 100 pages ran out of steam and hence the reason for my 4 star rating.

Having said that I really enjoyed the read, great writing and interesting characters.
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,329 followers
July 20, 2016
I loved reading The House at the Edge of Night. It's not great literature or particularly deep, but it was a lovely absorbing story. Spanning the 20th century and early 21st century and 4 generations, it focuses on a few characters on a small island at the very southern tip of Italy. They go through world events, but with the buffering that necessarily comes from being part of a tight knit community on an island. Old tensions fester and pass through the generations. New generations try to change old ways, with mixed success. There are strong women and idiosyncratic characters. There are superstitions that prove a little false and a little true. In other words, it has all the ingredients I like in this kind of historical family saga -- good characters, some original plot twists and really good sense of place and history -- without the elements I don't tend to like -- too much sentimentality and melodrama. I wouldn't want to mislead anyone -- this is definitely a book that plays on your heart strings, but it hit the right chords for me. A good summer read for lazy vacation days -- I wish! Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for a chance to read an advance copy.

A note on the cover: Yuck! I don't like this cover. I never would have considered reading this book based on the cover. It looks like a 6th grader's art project. Thankfully, I read Angela's excellent review and was convinced to read this lovely book despite the tacky cover.
Profile Image for Dianne.
556 reviews890 followers
February 18, 2017
This was a real "fishes and loaves" book for me. No matter how much I read, when I went to pick it up again it seemed like there was still infinity pages to go! The book that kept on giving, even when I didn't want it to.

The multi-generational saga follows a young doctor who settles on a remote island off the coast of Sicily called Castellamare. The doctor falls in love with the island and its inhabitants and marries a local widow. Their tale leads to their daughter's tale, to her son's tale, to her granddaughter's tale. Along the way, the island and its inhabitants provide local color and charm. In the background, world events - World War I, facism, the world economy - provide additional layers of depth. The "House at the Edge of Night," referred to in the book's title, is a beloved bar owned by the doctor's family through the years and is the heart of the story.

I liked it but it was too long and meandering for me. I am the outlier on this one, so perhaps I was just not in the right mood for a leisurely story spanning almost 100 years. If you enjoy family sagas and lovely settings and don't mind a slower pace of story-telling, you will probably really enjoy this.

I liked it, didn't love it. I did, however, love the book's cover! Beautiful.
Profile Image for Karen.
561 reviews1,103 followers
July 22, 2016
I just loved this novel of four generations of a family on a Mediterranean island off the coast of Italy, starting with Amedeo a foundling from Florence who arrived here as a doctor for the island. He with his book of stories spanning many years, along with his personal indiscretion and what became of it for his family. I just loved the story and reading about the island life and their house and bar named " The Island at the Edge of Night.
Profile Image for Victoria.
412 reviews317 followers
September 29, 2017
Sparkling Sicilian Saga…

Her life seemed to her an odd thing, a thing that had dragged all the time when happiness still seemed far off…and at last, when happiness had been afforded her, seemed to have rushed over at a breathless speed, leaving no room for thought.

Good old-fashioned storytelling, vivid characters and lyrical prose, I was swept away by this book to another shore, another time. While a story set on a small island off the coast of Sicily with only its small cast of inhabitants could have felt claustrophobic, instead Banner creates for us a magical place with heroes and villains; comedy and tragedy; and folk tales woven throughout. In scope and tone, it reminded me of Trigiani’s The Shoemaker’s Wife, though I found this to have more complexity with a touch of the mythical.

Sometimes a gal just wants to read a wonderful story, beautifully told with a touch of Fellini-like fantasy. Viva la dolce vita!
Profile Image for Lori Elliott (catching up).
724 reviews1,764 followers
July 13, 2016
This novel was so good in so many ways, but what I loved most was the pure and simple way it was told. The story wraps you up like a warm embrace. You can't read this without falling in love with Castellamare, the Esposito family, and the quirky islanders. A wonderful family saga that really captures the art of storytelling. 4.5 stars.
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,146 reviews501 followers
February 6, 2017
From the blurb:
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.
Louis de Bernières (Captain Corelli's Mandolin), Elena Ferrante (The Neapolitan Novels - series), Isabelle Allende (Eva Luna, The House of the Spirits): they all have some things in common - atmosphere, magic realism, and authentic tales.

The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner fits into this group of excellent tales about history, families and legacies. I am an enormous fan of all these authors and loved Catherine Banner's book. It is fine addition to this outstanding group of stories and authors.

The book starts out with the tale that would set the tone, intention, and theme of the story:
Once the whole of the island of Castellamare was plagued by a curse of weeping. It came from the caves by the sea, and because the islanders had built their houses from that rock, which had been the liquid fire of the volcano itself, very soon the weeping rang in all the walls of the buildings, it resounded along the streets, and even the arched entrance of the town wailed at night like an abandoned bride.
Doctor Amedeo Esposito left Italy in 1914 to become the first doctor on this island and for the next four generations they would live the tale of the people entrenched in its pathos, history, folklore, politics, and mysteries. Amedeo used his red book to write all the tales down but did not have enough time in his often tempestuous life to record them all. His daughter, Maria-Grazia was one of the inhabitants who listened to his stories with which he made friends, win confidence, and healed the sick. Yet, at his death, some of their own generation's stories were not recorded.

Maria-Grazia: "Someone should have written down all the other stories,” she said. For after her father, Armedeo, who had remembered to do it? What about Agata-the-fisherwoman’s rescue from the ocean? What about Robert’s own appearance? The day of the ships, when she and her father had witnessed them arrayed on the horizon like raindrops on a wire? The ghost of Pierino? The taming of Enzo; the building of the great hotel; the miracle of the bundles of money appearing after dark at the islanders’ doors? What about all the tales that had gone unrecorded? Someone should have made remembrance of these things.

The most important mystery of the island was the House Of Death in the caves down at the beach, where thousands of corpses were buried at the same time, and nobody knew how, or why, it happened. Archaeologists excavated, the site became world famous, tourists flogged in to see, yet, the mystery, an enigma to everyone, remained.

Amedeo Esposito, traveling on the fisherman's boat, with the prophetic name God Have Mercy, from Naples, arrived on the island in a hail of flowers during the annual festival of Sant'Agata. It was the first encounter with the islanders and Sant'Agata and would also after four generations, finally conclude the saga of his life and descendants at the end of the tale. Through his observations and meticulous notes, he would also finally resolve the mystery of the House of Death.

For each festival the women of the island collected millions of flowers, and throughout the tale this gathering of flowers for the festival kept the islanders connected to their own life stories, memorial events, relationship issues, their island and each other. Starting out with WWI, going through WWII and finally the economic crunch of 2007, Sant'Agata remains the center of all heartbreak and miracles. She divided and conquered. She destroyed and healed, but without her, there would not have been an island Castellamare, or Amedeo Esposito's story to tell.

Although the Espositos were the protagonists, the two main characters in this riveting saga, were Castellamare - the island itself, and Sant'Agata.

The Esposito ('esposito' - meaning 'banned') family, from dotorre Amedeo Esposito as the patriarch and first one on the island, to his great-granddaughter Lena, taking over their legacy, changed the path of history for the islanders and their descendants.

Throughout the ages, even long before the Espositos became the owners, everything always happened in the restaurant and pub The House At The Edge Of Night. Lena would become the next owner, as well as the earthly muse of Castellamare's fate and fabels. Who else could protect the old customs, traditions, language, cooking and soul of Sant'Agata's Castellamare better?
Maria-Grazia: She understood now that Lena would go on returning to this place all her life. As Amedeo had, and Pina the schoolmistress, and Maria-Grazia herself—all of them, living and dead. Lena would return always, to walk the same goat paths her great-grandfather Amedeo had walked, with his medical bag in one hand and his head full of stories, foundling, founder, drainer of swamps, healer of sicknesses, sworn protector of this place.
This book enchanted and captured me completely. The last book I have enjoyed so much, about an island and its people, covering more or less the same historical period, and also spanning over several generations, was The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by G.B. Edwards and John Fowles, which I would recommend wholeheartedly as another good read in the island genre. In fact it became one of my all-time favorite reads.

However, in the spirit of De Bernières, Ferrante and Allende, The House at the Edge of Night by Catherine Banner, just became a confirmed favorite as well. The beautiful, picturesque prose nailed it to my Favorite's List.

Profile Image for Aditi.
920 reviews1,323 followers
July 12, 2016
“The island is ours. Here, in some way, we are young forever.”

----E. Lockhart

Catherine Banner, an English author, pens a breathtaking yet poignant tale about an Italian family saga spun over a century and through three generations in an unknown island in her debut book, The House at the Edge of Night that revolves around the life of a doctor who after completing his studies in Florence, travels off to an Italian island, where he sets up his practice and eventually he also grows his own family through generations by buying the old house at the edge of the island where he opens a bar and runs it with the help of his wife. This book basically unfolds the stories of the people living on this island, thereby narrating the story of this island as a whole, which goes through war and many changes from the year 1914 to 2009.


On a tiny island off the coast of Italy, Amedeo Esposito, a foundling from Florence, thinks he has found a place where, finally, he can belong.

Intrigued by a building the locals believe to be cursed, Amedeo restores the crumbling walls, replaces sagging doors and sweeps floors before proudly opening the bar he names the ‘House at the Edge of Night’. Surrounded by the sound of the sea and the scent of bougainvillea, he and the beautiful, fiercely intelligent Pina begin their lives together.

Home to the spirited, chaotic Esposito family for generations, the island withstands a century of turmoil – transformed in ways both big and small by war, tourism and recession. It’s a place alive with stories, legends and, sometimes, miracles. And while regimes change, betrayals are discovered and unexpected friendships nurtured, the House at the Edge of Night remains: the backdrop for long-running feuds and the stage for great love affairs.

Amedeo Esposito, an Italian foundling, arrives at the island of Castellamare, off the coast of Italy, after getting appointed as a local physician in that island, on the day of Sant’Agata festival, who became the patron saint of the island after saving the island from weeping(for that you really need to read the book!)
Besides his medical practice and getting introduced with the local island folks, he began to collect the stories of this island, mainly folklore, into his red leather dairy that was gifted by his foster father. But despite of earning a good name, his bad reputation due to his past mistakes and his liaisons, the doctor is banished from further medical practices by the count of the island. And soon Amedeo marries the most intelligent widow on the island, Pina, along with whose help he reopens the old bar, The House at The Edge of Night, and through three generations, the Espositos serve coffee, wine, rice balls, limoncello and other Italian drinks and cakes, devoid of the bad gossips about Amedeo's past errors, the World War I and II, the great depression, the fascism era and many other challenges. From Amedeo's children to great grand children to their offspring, for three straight generations, the house stands strong and tall by providing as a strong pillar to all those stories of the people who pass through it.

Can family sagas be interesting? Heck yeah, read this book, you will know that family sagas can not only interesting, but they can be riveting, mind blowing , heart-touching and extremely addictive. Before further penning my review, I would like to give a standing ovation to the author, for penning such an extraordinary story that is actually a historical fiction about an Italian family, which generally sounds boring and midway through the story, the readers begin to yawn a lot, unlike this one. This novel is a rare gem found in the ocean of so many diverse historical fiction, that is part literary fiction, and part historical fiction. From the very first page, itself, the story hooked me right into its very core and depth where I simply lost myself into the island of Castellamare and with its stories.

The author's writing style is crisp and clear and is laced with myriad emotions that will make the readers either laugh or cry or feel sad or anger as per the story's flow. The narrative style of the author is emphatic and extremely interesting, that is not only inspired from the local dialect but can also be easily comprehended by the readers. The story is addictive and will easily keep the readers frantically turning the pages of this 470 pages long book till the very last page and surprisingly for not even once, the story will either bore the readers or make them feel meaningless. And with a fantastic prose, the story has a moderate pace as the story is laced under so many layers and with so many underlying stories, but the author peels away each layer gently and cleverly throughout the course of this story.

The author's backdrop painting of Castellamare, which is basically a fictional island, off the Italian coast, is magnificent, vivid, colorful and extremely eye-catchy. Surrounded by the vast blue ocean, this island definitely stands as a strong rock to the author;s beautiful family saga. The author has strikingly captured the bluish-green landscape of the island with its old traditional architecture, monuments and pathways. Apart from this island, The House at The Edge of Night plays a pivotal role in the story line, which the author arrests with extreme beauty by depicting as the only standing two-storeyed house surrounded with bougainvillea plant, by the edge of the island that have withstand many stories and sorrows through ages. And with an instant the readers can visualize this old house right before their own eyes, apart from the salty breeze, the sweet smell of limoncello and the rusty smell on the pavements.

From the historic point of view, the author includes so many major historical changes like the First World War, followed by the second world war and the invasion by the English troops, the fascist movement and the recession that are projected with evocatively, reading which the readers can easily feel the pain of the local folks undergoing the effects.

The characters in the book are very much realistically crafted complete with their flaws, shortcomings, defects, wishes, goals and determination. While reading about these characters, the readers are bound to feel a connection as well as their down-to-earth warmth of the characters. There is no such main character, as the story moves from one central character to another, its more like passing down through generations. Hence each and every character from this book play a major role that without whom, the story will be left incomplete. The people of the island are very much superstitious, a big believer in miracles and are very gossipy in nature, yet their unmatched charm will make the readers fall for them. And yes, they are so well developed, that they will imprint on the minds of the readers.

In a nutshell, this compelling story left me allured and enthralled with its vastness, diversity, beauty and emotional depth. I strongly recommend this novel to all the historical fiction readers.

Verdict: A captivating family saga through generation set across a small Italian island.

Courtesy: Thanks to the author, Catherine Banner, for giving me an opportunity to read and review this novel.
Profile Image for PattyMacDotComma.
1,397 reviews801 followers
September 9, 2016
A leisurely story of a tiny, enchanting isle and the people it has captivated for centuries. I won’t attempt to summarise much, just give examples of the style and the writing.

In Florence, sometime at the end of the 19th century, a baby boy is passed through the window of the foundling hospital, as were a third of all children born then in Florence. What a startling bit of information that is!

Amedeo is eventually fostered by a kindly bachelor doctor, and he grows up to be a doctor himself, struggling to find a permanent position somewhere, anywhere. Finally, one mayor invites him to his island, Castellamare, a long way from home.

“The island was a crumb between the pages of his foster father’s atlas; south and east of Sicily, it was the furthest Amedeo could possibly have ventured from Florence without reaching Africa.”

He arrives at night on a small boat, no lights, little idea of where he is to go, and just keeps walking uphill until he arrives in the middle of the yearly festival of Sant’Agata. A perfect introduction to these wild, passionate people.

“For now, it seemed only a wondrous, magical disorder unlike anything he had witnessed.

Into this disorder, as into a warm sea, stepped Amedeo. He passed through the scents of jasmine and anchovies and liquor, through snatches of dialect and accented Italian and high lamenting songs whose language he did not recognise, through the light of fires and torches and the hundred red candles that illuminated the ghostly saint.

“At last, emerging from the crowd with his suitcase clutched to his chest, he found himself before an extraordinary house.

A square building, in faded amber, it seemed balanced on the very side of the hill, between the light of the piazza and the dark of the hillside and the sea. Its terrace was draped in great profusions of bougainvillea. At little tables, among the flowers, the islanders drank limoncello and arancello, fought and swore over card games, swayed to the whirling songs of an 'organetto.' A sign in fanciful script proclaimed the words ‘Casa al Bordo della Notte’: House at the Edge of Night.”

Amadeo settles into life there, and we meet all the island families, hear their folk tales and myths, learn about their faith in Sant’Agata’s powers and the magic of the caves by the sea.

The people live in each other’s pockets, and everyone knows everyone’s business—or rather, thinks they do. The island is alive with rumours, passions, ancient grudges and unlikely relatives. They are remote and pretty much untouched by the mainland. There is a fisherman's donkey cart and one motor car, belonging to Il Conte, the Count, who is treated like royalty and behaves like the boor that he is. No power, no mod cons, and always the risk of disease.

When WW1 arrives, Amedeo is more concerned about draining the swamps to prevent malaria, but eventually he is called up and sent to the trenches.

“It seemed a world composed of elements, where men were divided into their component pieces, men frothed, men screamed. At the surgical school of Santa Maria Nuova, he had received no training in how to put men back together.”

Later, the story wends its way through his affair, his marriage (different woman!), his several children and eventually their children. Kids grow up, many desperate to leave, but when they do, they feel drawn back home.

The island offers up some terrific characters, and the island itself is unique, as is the House of the title. It becomes a bar and a centre of activity for the town, which gives us a good excuse to meet everyone. There are particularly powerful women here, and the men challenge them at their peril.

It’s a fishing village, so of course there are seafaring tales and beliefs.

“Sant’Agata is angry. A storm like this comes over a fishing boat when someone on board as a guilty soul.”

When WW2 arrives, the island can’t avoid hearing about it, now that they have radio and regular news reports. Amedeo’s family suffers badly, as do many.

One returned soldier feels

“to go about the business of daily life was to only half inhabit the world, for in a deeper chamber of his mind the war was playing and replaying, sapping his energies as though he were still fighting it. It came over him quite suddenly. For example, he would smooth out the sheets on his bed before sleep, and before him instead the desert would ripple, the wind scouring its surface. Or he would raise his hand to shave and see instead a slick of blood – feel again how his guts had curled when he raised that same hand in the dark to find one finger, two fingers, three fingers gone, shot away entirely.”

But another finds love.

“If he knew she had passed on the stairs, he would rush to stand in the air she had breathed, gasping for a trace of her perfume (which was dry and a little like oranges). If she touched something on the bar’s counter he would surreptitiously pick it up, for the simple pleasure of touching it too.”

Do we learn everything about everyone? Does anyone, ever?

“Strange it was, that in this island where everybody knew your business before you knew it, where the widows burdened you with prayers and the elderly scopa players scolded and the old fishermen knew you by name before you were even born, it was possible still for a person to be as deep as the ocean, as unfathomable as the dark beyond the bar’s four walls.”

Interesting, long, lots of bougainvillea (scented, unlike mine), lots of coffee and arancello and various local foodstuffs. And did I say long? Yes, I did. It did feel long. So does my review. :)

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK/Cornerstone for a copy for review.
Profile Image for Laysee.
491 reviews226 followers
February 10, 2018
The book title, The House at the Edge of Night, has a magical ring to it. In my mind’s eye, I pictured a mountain hut (rifugio) poised as a beacon of light in a dark, cheerless place. Now that I have read this novel, I realized I was not too far off the mark.

The House at the Edge of Night is an island bar owned by three generations of the Esposito family on the island of Castellamare, off the coast of Sicily. “The Island was a low and brooding thing on the horizon, no more than a rock on the water.” The caves on Castellamare are reportedly cursed with weeping, but the island has a magnetic energy that is most evident during the festival of their patron saint, Sant Agata. For ten days, I was ensconced in The House at the Edge of Night, this bougainvillea-framed café that looks out at the vast darkness of the sea. I sat there drinking coffee, savoring rice balls, eavesdropping on the gossip of the islanders and following their triumphs, trials and tribulations over the years from 1914 to 2009 that straddled two world wars and the Great Depression.

Several of the characters are vividly portrayed and I was swept up in their love relationships, old grudges, sibling rivalry, family feuds, bitter strife, forgiveness and restoration. The huge cast includes: Amedeo Esposito, the foundling who becomes village doctor and subsequently bar owner; Maria-Grazia, Amedeo’s amazing daughter who survives a physical disability and becomes an enterprising operator of the bar; Andrea il Conte, the wealthy count from a prominent family much loathed by the islanders; Giuseppino and Sergio, Maria-Grazia’s feuding sons who fight tooth and nail over ownership of the bar and the red book of stories that belongs to their great-grandfather Amedeo; Concetto, the wild but faithful bar maid who is Maria-Grazia’s closest friend; Maddelena, Amedeo’s great-grand daughter who becomes the third generation bar owner.

The insularity of Castellamare is no protection from the march of progress and modernization as well as the impact of global events, such as the rise of Fascism, the Allied invasion of Sicily, and the financial crisis of 2008. In the early years, the island has no proper electricity, no libraries, no wireless. Folks are illiterate and many fish for a living. Restless youth leave, pledging never to return, but they do. Gradually, The House at the Edge of Night has to reinvent itself to keep up with new beach bars and hotels that spring up to cater to hordes of tourists from the mainland who begin to encroach on the simple life of the islanders. Coffee makers, ice-cream machines, TV, a small library, and internet access become essential add-ons.

The House at the Edge of Night holds center stage in the lives of the island folks. While their customers are sometimes drawn away by the neon lights of newer hip joints, they invariably return to the bar. The House at the Edge of Night is a gathering place, a refuge of sorts where lost souls find their way home. Here the locals share their stories with each other over arancello, limoncello, or cappuccino. It always has a successor who believes in it and is willing to forgo greater dreams to keep it a welcoming haven for all who visit.

The House at the Edge of Night is a charming debut novel by British author, Catherine Banner. There is a dreamlike quality to this story as if one has just stepped through a shower of petals. It has been lovely for me to be part of life on Castellamare for a brief spell.
Profile Image for Renata.
132 reviews129 followers
November 20, 2017
Grazie Mille to my GR friends for their inviting reviews of this magnificently enjoyable novel. It completely fulfilled my need for a heartwarming story that would allow me to escape for a while into another time and place.
It also happened to be one of the richest narrations I’ve yet to listen to. Eduardo Bollani’s Italian voice added just the right nuances to bring out the magic of the setting, the very small island of Castlemare not far from Sicily.
Other reviewers and the Book Description will give you a clear idea of the plot which flows smoothly across a period of over sixty years. I loved every word of this story - it was written with such warmth and simple narrative grace even across those tragic tumultuously disruptive war years.
So much to love in this story of strong women, steadfast men, children who prove a challenge to parents and a small community that is both too entirely nosy, meddling and yet supportive. The author did a marvelous job of portraying changes over time on this small island that mirrored the changes of the outside world - only always a bit more slowly. He author weaves her magic in through the islands protective Saint Agatha in a variety of ways that are like silver and gold threads in a timeless tapestry. Love this book!
Another part I loved was the way Amadeo, the foundling medical doctor who finds his way to Castelamare, become a collector of the tales the old people tell. He gathers these and records them In a book. The author sprinkles these tales throughout the book and they become parables in a way. So really we get the history of the people who settled this island in ancient times through the lives of the present generations. For such a heart warming story, there is more depth and more layers of thoughts to be had on community and family and what gives us that much needed belief of belonging.
Profile Image for ☮Karen.
1,464 reviews9 followers
October 23, 2016
Some will think me odd, but this is my favorite book cover this year! I think it's just gorgeous.

It turned out to be quite an enjoyable saga, and kudos to the audio narrator for making it so. Eduardo Ballerini's pacing and inflections often reminded me of Louise Penny's expert reader, the late Ralph Cosham, but with the occasional Italiano thrown in instead of French. So it made me want to sit back in a comfy chair with some vino or Limoncello and just enjoy.

This is the story of five generations of the Esposito family on a mythical island near Sicily. From WWI to present day, we fall in love with each member of the family. The house is first acquired by Amadeo and remodeled into a bar, a business venture which holds the family together for generations. The island itself undergoes major transformations, from its old fashioned ways into modernity as each generation matures and brings in automobiles, refrigeration, computers, modern banking, and the problems each carries. The bar keepers evolve as well, and I really liked Amadeo's daughter Maria Grazia most of all (sorry if misspelled; I haven't seen it written).

I did like the earlier years better than the modern ones, and that could be partly due to the length of the saga. In general, a book this long needs some mystery or plot twists to hold my interest. But it's not an exciting story, rather it's pretty docile, yet beautiful, like the island. I could probably do well to listen to the last hour again since I found my mind wandering so much. But life's too short and other books beckon.
Profile Image for Nancy.
415 reviews
March 29, 2016
Reading this book was pure pleasure for me. I was captivated enough by the story that I devoured it in one sitting (which means that I stayed up entirely too late into the wee small hours to finish it). The writing is beautiful and descriptive enough that I could picture everything in my head.

It is the story of a family on a small island, Castellamare, in the Mediterranean near Sicily. It spans four generations of the Esposito family and the time period from before World War I through modern times. Life on Castellamare revolves around the The House at the Edge of Night which is a cafe/bar that the Esposito family owns and operates. The family also lives above their business so it is also the center of their family life.

The story shows how the island community evolves over time and how the changes in the outside world affect it. One thing that unites the community is their unwavering faith in Sant' Agata and the importance of the saint's blessings in giving the island prosperity. Superstition and tradition are a part of life on the island. It is also full of power games, gossip, rivalries, and secrets. The secrets are especially important for when the the truth comes out, it is explosive.

The characters are the engine that drives this story because they are well defined and very believable. You become invested in them and live through them. They bring you into their community and make you part of it.

This book is well worth anyone's time and has something for everyone, whether they are looking for a love story or a war story or a scandal.

I was gifted this book by NetGalley in return for a fair review.

Profile Image for DeB.
969 reviews246 followers
April 18, 2017
Amedeo Esposito, a giant of a man and a foundling mentored by a doctor in Florence, becomes a physician himself and eventually, finally finds a permanent job in southern Italy on the small island of Castellamare. He makes indiscreet choices, marries, has children and becomes part of the fabric of the closely knit community by restoring the old bar, and opening it for business in The House at the Edge of the Night.

Interspersed between sections are old Italian folk tales, some macabre and some fanciful as Grimm's fairy tales, which lend a sense of the mystical or a fabled air to the narrative of the family stories, as they cascade over each other. The island, too, has its own special tale in its history of persistant weeping within the core and houses themselves until all were broken in a great upheaval, lava flowing, and then quiet only with building from the broken rocks that formerly wept. Sant Agata is their locally adored saint, maker of miracles and celebrated annually in a riotous festival.

All in all, story upon story, life challenges and changing circumstances of the tightly bound enclave that make up the heart and character of generations, loves and losses and hardships, the novel The House at the Edge of the Night is itself like one of the old folk tales where you wait, entranced, for the magical ending that will tie all of the meanderings together. It doesn't disappoint.

A favourite quote: "He had not known bringing up children would be like this, a slow process of losing."

Profile Image for Inna.
606 reviews128 followers
November 20, 2019
Вже не раз казала, як безмежно обожнюю погляд на історію крізь життя людини. Яскравими прикладами використання цього прийому стали «Ціле життя» Зіталера, «Століття Якова» Лиса та «Сонька» Карповича (принаймні це перше, що згадалося). А тут історія життя навіть не однієї людини, а декількох поколінь родини.
Перед нами історія від ХХ ст. до наших днів. Про що вона? Про війну,яка нищить життя людей, а потім прихід прогресу, що нищить…душі? Про дітей, що летять за своїми мріями на велику землю, і про повернення тих, кому вона обсмалить крила. А ще про людей, родину, різні світогляди і різні характери, про плітки, віру, спадковість, кохання та чесність, про диво і витоки фінансової кризи, про відчуття належності і зв’язку з рідним домом, а потім знову про людей і про все на світі.
Острів Кастеламаре. Забутий Богом (але не Святою Агатою) шматок суші поблизу Сицилії. Там повітря п’янить пахощами чебрецю і базиліку. Там солоне морське повітря гуляє у волоссі, поки ви поспішаєте до маленького сімейного пабу, щоб перехилити чарочку limoncello та закусити рисовими кульками. Там білизнУ шкіри туристів порівнюють з рікотою. Там небезпечно близько до війни та не менш небезпечно близько до цивілізації.
Profile Image for Joy D.
1,779 reviews213 followers
April 17, 2020
Multi-generational family saga set on the fictional Italian island of Castellamare from the early 1900s to the financial crisis of 2008. Dr. Amadeo Esposito arrives from the mainland to practice medicine in this small community. Gossip and scandal lead him to withdraw from medicine. He purchases the titular House at the Edge of Night, restoring it to its former function as the local bar and coffee shop. We follow the various local families as they experience (from a distance) the events of the world. Amadeo documents the folk tales of the area, such as the legend of the weeping stones in the caves by the sea, eventually passing them along to his children and grandchildren.

Banner’s descriptive writing makes it easy to picture the people and places on the island: “Strange it was, that in this island where everybody knew your business before you knew it, where the widows burdened you with prayers and the elderly scopa players scolded and the old fishermen knew you by name before you were even born, it was possible still for a person to be as deep as the ocean, as unfathomable as the dark beyond the bar’s four walls.”

It is a slow-paced novel about life in an isolated environment. The focus is on the Esposito family members and their struggles. The reader will likely appreciate some generations of characters more than others. For me, the early parts of the novel, covering the first two generations, are the most enjoyable. After a while the disputes, gossip, and grudges can wear a bit thin. It is a pleasant story that depicts the ups and downs of life.
Profile Image for Dana.
195 reviews
August 1, 2016
The House at the Edge of Night is the perfect, dreamlike, summer book to read while sipping a limoncello! This Italian saga – covering four generations - is filled with great storytelling, magical realism, folklore, passion and family drama.

*side note ~ I loved the folksy cover...which has been discussed by many. :)
Profile Image for Jeannie.
202 reviews
October 6, 2017
I want to go to Castellamare. I want to sit on the terrace at The House at the Edge of Night surrounded by bougainvilleas, visit with Maria-Grazia (she seems like an old friend now) and drink limoncello while gazing out at the sea.

What a great story, filled with great characters! I loved every minute of this book. I'm sad that it's over.

Highly recommend!
Profile Image for Terri Wino.
663 reviews60 followers
July 23, 2017
I won a copy of this book from Random House through a Goodreads giveaway. Thank you to both.

This is a family saga that spans several generations of the Esposito family.

I'm just going to cut to the chase here and say that while it was an interesting story, I found my attention wandering a lot and was bored several times throughout the book.

For me, I felt like the author tried to cover so much territory through the generations that I never really made a solid connection with any of the characters.

Overall, a good book, but not one that blew me away.
Profile Image for Jeanette.
3,213 reviews551 followers
June 9, 2017
This was a case of my knowing WAY too much about the place and not being able to connect with this islander Sicilians saga. I can understand completely how others got more of the magic and less of the improbable as I did and gave this a 4 star rating. Because some of the characters were drawn well and are of the type to remain in memory beyond just the book ending. Especially our original protagonist, the orphan from Florence.

Here, and I tend to sound like a revolving 45 disc (if you know what those were) but if the focus had been for a shorter time period and in a tighter grip to the essential family, I think it would have been better. Too long, and so many historical inputs, especially during the war (WWII) that I think the entire Fascist/Count influences and other departures for those who left and why- were nearly obliterated in the love affair or feud stories. And that obscurity from national stage connection (wider Italian government of any era, let alone these) and the economics of this place are pivotal influences. YET, here they were clearly peripheral to family or island dynamics.

Lovely and stunningly gorgeous place and this provided a window into some of that magic of visual beauty- that was a 4. And the dialogue at times was well done. Not always in context to a Sicilian dialect window, but some of the "affect" was close enough.

But by making this so long and multi generational I thought that by the time the feuding brothers came along, it had lost its zip to the reality of Mediterranean Italy. So my connection was nearly dissolved by the last quarter and it was a trudge to finish.

Sicily holds far, far more real pivotal reasons for leaving or staying. It just does. For females more than males. And for liking to eat as opposed to starving.

For an excellent fiction book upon the Southern Italy reality- "Christ Stopped at Eboli" by Carol Levi.
Profile Image for Maria Roxana.
515 reviews
August 13, 2021
Se zice să nu judecăm o carte după copertă. "Casa de la marginea nopții" are o copertă superbă, dar și o poveste pe măsură, deci nu e mereu valabilă acea zicală. Am ales să o citesc pe plajă, cu marea pe fundal, un cadru perfect pentru povestea la care am fost martoră! O insulă, un secol de iubiri, povești și secrete transmise din generație în generație, dar și câteva miracole - cumva subiective, sesizate de sufletul fiecărui cititor.

M-am visat stând la taclale cu Pina Vella, învațătoarea, soția, mama și bunica iubită de toată lumea - inclusiv de mine- bând împreună limoncello, privind marea, și ascultând muzică la organetto, ea fiind genul de om pe care l-aș asculta zile întregi povestind.

Voi reveni cândva la această carte, și nu, nu e o lectură "de plajă", nesolicitantă, e o carte care ne invită să visăm. Poveștile pot fi păstrate și transmise mai departe, chiar dacă sunt adunate într-un caiet cu coperta roșie, precum cel al lui Amedeo Esposito. Poveștile pot sfida războaiele, timpul și nedreptatea. Ele merg mai departe.
Profile Image for Sonja Arlow.
1,071 reviews7 followers
July 22, 2017
Every time a book blurb compares a new writer to a more established one like Isabel Allende I cringe a little, why put all that pressure on a debut novel that can very possibly stand on its own legs.

But in this case, I must agree, the writing was very reminiscent of Isabel Allende minus the magical realism.

Beautifully descriptive and atmospheric, I could smell the profusion of flowers at the Sant’Agata festival, could taste the limoncello that everyone was drinking. So much life contained in just over 400 pages.

I would never be able to live on an island like that where gossip is a national sport. Every move you make is broadcast in lightning speed. But I did like the charm of an island that felt as if time stood still, barely affected by world events.

I loved the little folk tales dispersed throughout the story that mirrors what the characters were struggling with.

And even though the story centres around one family it felt like this is a story of the island of Castellamare. The lives, loves and tragedies of everyone in this small community spanning over 100 years.

I was enchanted by the characters, impressed with the writing and a little sad when the story was finished. Highly recommended.

ARC Netgalley
Profile Image for Paul Lockman.
245 reviews6 followers
June 7, 2018
What an impressive debut novel. Charming, endearing, delightful are words that spring to mind. Catherine Banner has written an engaging book about life on a small island off the coast of Sicily. It largely centres around the Esposito family and spans four generations of the family throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries and the author weaves in some great myths and storytelling amongst all the family dramas and dynamics. We also get to know many of the other characters on the island, the politics, the petty bitching and gossiping, it’s all there and described in a warm and enchanting way. I really enjoyed this book and marked it 4.5 stars. I just took half a star off as I felt it was a little ambitious going all the way into the 21st century and the last quarter to a third of the book didn’t captivate me as much as the rest.
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