22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Catherine Banner

Portrait Catherine Banner
© Hartwig Klappert

Catherine Banner was born in Cambridge in 1989 and studied English at Fitzwilliam College before moving to County Durham to work as a school teacher. In her youth, Banner read works by mostly 19th century authors, including George Eliot, Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens. This group of writers awakened in her a preference for stories containing several different narrative threads and told in a grand scale. The poetry of Caribbean-based poet and playwright Derek Walcott – with its timeless and meticulous observations – was one of Banner’s most formative reading experiences. She also discovered the work of Salman Rushdie, Isabel Allende and Gabriel García Márquez and came to value their equally poetic and magical storytelling abilities.

Banner began her career with the publication of a fantasy series of young adult books called »The Last Descendants« (2008). She had started writing the first installment of that series, »Eyes of a King« (2008) at the age of 14 and completed the book in her free time at university. In 2009, she followed that up with the second installment, »Voices in the Dark« (2009). »The Heart at War« (2015) rounded out the trilogy. The story revolves around 15-year-old Leo who lives in an alternative realm – one that resembles Victorian England – called Malonia. He attends military school there and lives with his very anxious grandmother. Leo suppresses the powers he possesses because people with any kind of magical ability are considered enemies of the state. One day, Leo finds an empty book in the snow and watches as the pages begin to fill with family secrets; in front of his eyes, the story of two teenagers from a parallel universe is uncovered. Leo soon finds himself on a journey of no return; he increasingly loses touch with reality as the story of the teenagers moves more and more into the foreground. In her first novel for adults, »The House at the Edge of Night« (2016), Banner tells the story of a family over the course of 95 years and three generations. The novel is set on a small island in Sicily against a backdrop of social change, war, crises and the advent of the modern era. The novel was translated into 22 languages and selected by »Kirkus Reviews« and »NPR« as »Best Book of the Year 2016«. For her second novel, which will be published in 2018, Banner researched the effects of industrialization, migration and the partisan movement on life in small European cities, for example, in Piedmont in northern Italy.

In addition to her work as an author, Banner is also a writing consultant to a non-profit project known as VOICE, which aims to provide a platform for humanitarian workers worldwide to tell their own stories in their own words. Banner lives in Turin.