cover image The House at the Edge of Night

The House at the Edge of Night

Catherine Banner. Random House, $27 (432p) ISBN 978-0-8129-9879-5

Banner, the author of three YA novels, makes her adult debut with a fantastic chronicle of several generations of a family living on a somewhat otherworldly Italian island. Raised by a kindly doctor who takes him from a Florence orphanage, a grown Amedeo Esposito moves to gossipy Castellamare to become the town physician in the early 20th century. He marries the smart, capable Pina Vella, but not before conducting an ill-fated affair with the mayor’s wife, which results in two of Amedeo’s children being born to two different women on the same night. After Amedeo loses his livelihood, he and Pina transform their storied, titular home into a successful bar, which is eventually looked after by their youngest child, Maria-Grazia, during WWII. In her role, she becomes privy to all the townspeople’s secrets, conducts a courtship with wounded British soldier Robert Carr, and, much to her parents’ consternation, finds herself drawn to her half-brother, Andrea. Meanwhile, her sibling Flavio, a former Fascist and her only brother to survive the war, is shunned by the community after rumors destroy his reputation. Banner extends the scope to Maria-Grazia’s two disparate, warring sons, Sergio and Giuseppino, who are willed the bar by Amedeo, and Sergio’s daughter, Lena, who gives up her plans of becoming a doctor to run the business. All the while, Banner constructs a town life with an engaging cast of characters. Her story has a touch of magical realism that filters down from the island’s many legends, collected in a book within the book by Amedeo. Banner deftly touches on weightier themes while weaving an enchanting narrative, the events of which extend to the present. Agent: Suzanne Gluck, WME Entertainment. (July)