Seven Days of Us
by Francesca Hornak
A week is a long time to spend with your family.
Now imagine being quarantined with them over the entire Christmas holiday.
A warm, wry, sharply observed debut novel about what happens when a family is forced to spend a week together in quarantine over the holidays…
It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years, the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.
For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems.
As Andrew sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, Emma hides a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.
In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive…
And it is food that gives the guilt-ridden mother purpose, reviving Christmases past with that holy trinity of turkey, gravy, and cranberry. This is why restaurants shouldn’t attempt Christmas food.
He kept talking, explaining that further tests were needed to determine whether the tumor was “indolent” or “aggressive.” Funny to define tumors like teenagers, she thought…
He’d started to feel quite romantic about the fact that his roots were part Arabian Nights, part Downton Abbey (never mind that Weyfield was on Emma’s side). He became convinced it was his rare cocktail blood, and not just the fact that he was gay, that had made high school such a bitch.
… she was stuck on Dolemates, a dating show for the unemployed. It was a dire blend of Jeremy Kyle and First Dates, and her colleagues found it very funny that “posh Phoebe” was involved.
She had never forgotten him. And it felt like a circle completing— a circle that had been a C shape, for as long as Jesse could remember.
I struggled in how to rate this cleverly amusing and keenly observant book as I had enjoyed it tremendously until I arrived at the ending – which was largely absent… as if the author had started leading us down the road to one but then decided to fade out before getting there. Maybe she ran out of gas. I stamped my little foot and fumed a bit, well actually more than a bit since I crave closure in my entertainment as real-life certainly doesn’t provide the neat packaging. Sigh, I decided I had to let it go as the rest of the story was just that good.
Seven Days Of Us was a smartly written and emotive read that ranged from tragedy and loss to biting clever humor. The writing showcased razor-sharp wit, a unique and creative plot, superb writing, excellent pacing, and a highly intriguing train wreck of a family. I did not admire these people nor would I want to share air or be in the same area they inhabited, yet I was fascinated and remained engaged in their tale and wanted to know all about them and every little thing that was going to happen next for each of them. I had great empathy for the character of Jesse and to some extent Emma as well, although the remaining main characters were difficult, snarky, self-involved, and rather obnoxious personalities; yet they were also intelligent, fascinating, and compelling to the story. Each family member had closely guarded secrets and various levels of resentment of the rest. Each fought to contain the clever and snarky comments and observations rolling through their inner thoughts, which were often the most humorous lines in the book and kept me smirking. Ms. Hornak has mad skills!
Francesca Hornak is a journalist and writer, whose work has appeared in newspapers and magazines including The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Elle, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, and Red. She is the author of two nonfiction books, History of the World in 100 Modern Objects: Middle Class Stuff (and Nonsense) and Worry with Mother: 101 Neuroses for the Modern Mama. Visit her online @FrancescaHornak.