Amadeo Esposito started life as a foundling, taken care of by nuns in Florence. As he grows up he admires the doctor who visits the children and, when adopted by the doctor he is given the chance to train as a doctor himself. Finding it hard to get a job he applies for the position of doctor to the Island of Castellamare, a tiny island of the coast of Sicily.
He arrives on the day the festival of Sant Agata, the island full of celebration, and an auspicious day to start a new job and a new life on an island that is cut off from the rest of Italy. The residents are a close community still ruled over by Le Conte, and Saint Agata, a community where tales of folklore and myth are important and capture the heart of Amadeo.
The House at the Edge of Night is a building locals believe to be cursed, with walls the weep in sadness. Amadeo decides to refurbish the house and open it as a bar where the locals can gather for coffee, limoncello, rice balls and pastries; a centre for the community. It is also the place that he will raise his family, a house full of love, sadness, tragedy and hope. Over the course of a century changes on the island and in the world bring change to Amadeo, his family and the residents of Castellamare, and with change comes arguments, new challenges and new opportunities.
The House at the Edge of Night is an enchanting read of an almost ethereal Island, where walls weep and folklore is central. The prose is beautifully written, with attention to detail in the description of Castellamare and its residents.
There is a colourful cast of characters; Il Conte still rules the Island like the old feudal landlord to whom all citizens defer; the local fishermen who mend their nets and tell local tales of myth; all the girls named Agata, with their profession distinguish them, Agata the fisherwoman, Agata the baker’s daughter, after the Saint; and the blind midwife. Amadeo and his family take centre stage. I really enjoyed following his story from foundling in Florence to becoming a doctor and being embraced by the residents of Castellamare and becoming part of the Islands extended family. Through the generations we see his family expand and face different problems over the century but the one thing that ties them together is Castellamare, it has a pull that brings them back even when they leave.
The other aspect I really enjoyed was the inclusion of the local folktales. Italians have a history of being great story tellers, and these tales demonstrate the their importance in Italian culture; all have a moral tone or give a warning and have been passed down through the generations, where small changes obviously happen, and are enjoyed by all.
Castellamare seems part of folklore itself, almost any enchanted Island. Catherine Banner really brings the Island to life with her descriptive writing. The reader can see the caves with their weeping walls an bones; feel the heat of the sun and the dry ground that causes red dust to settle; smell the beautiful bougainvillea that grows in abundance.
The House at the Edge of Night is a captivating family saga, that will capture your heart from the first page and make you want to visit the beautiful Island of Castellamare (yes, it really does exist). The House itself is a theatre for the main characters where their lives play out in front of our eyes, we feel their happiness, sadness but most of all love for each other and the Island. A magical and escapist read, perfect for the summer.