With the holidays arriving, many of us are thinking of friends and family. Many will entertain distant relatives, or close relatives who have become distant. Usually, when company arrives, time is spent both inside the home, as well as outside of the home, doing things within the community. What if, however, you were forced to spend seven days together, with no other visitors coming and going, no trips to the market to clear your head, no stopping in at your favorite restaurant, to dine in nor carry out. Just you and yours, together, for seven days. What truths would be revealed? What secrets would unfold?
Such is the premise of the exceptionally well-written novel I recently read by Francesca Hornak, titled Seven Days of Us. From the book:
“Only the most extraordinary circumstances can reunite the Birch family for 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 Wayfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is coming home only 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.”<.> Here are the reviews from the back of the book:
“Loved it! Warm and humane, funny and sad, with a great, twisty plot...Francesca Hornak is a true talent. Just gorgeous!” - Marian Keyes, international bestselling author
“Francesca Hornak is HILARIOUSLY FUNNY, with characters that jump off the page, grab you, and just won’t let go.” - Rosamund Lupton, New York Times bestselling author of "Sister"
“Francesca Hornak’s absorbing debut SPARKLES with glints of Nancy Mitford and Julian Fellowes.” - Stephanie Clifford, New York Times bestselling author of "Everybody Rise"
“Hornak’s wry, MASTERFUL portrayal of a family in crisis...will capture - and break - your heart.” - Fiona Davis, author of "The Dollhouse"
“Hornak’s DELIGHTFUL debut...will enchant your inner ironist and sentimentalist alike.” - Courtney Maum, author of "Touch"
In my opinion, the review by Courtney Maum is spot on. I hate to disagree with Rosamund Lupton, but although I did find humor in the situations in the book, I would never describe it as “hilariously funny”. I do agree with her, however, that the characters grab you and won’t let go. This book was definitely one I had a hard time putting down.
One of the things I most enjoyed about this read was the authenticity of the characters. There were no obvious heroes nor villains, as I find too often in the fiction I read. I detest when the writer makes the villain so obviously bad that they become almost cartoonish. In Seven Days of Us, there are characters that I loved, and characters that, as happens in real life, I didn’t like so much, but none of them were stereotypical saints nor sinners. The most cheery and positive of the players were genuine and likeable, but yes, even they were flawed. The “bad guys” had their reasons for acting the way they did. In other words, every character was believably human. Kudos to the author for getting that right.
I also very much appreciated how the storyline, itself, was real. Sometimes I’m in the mood for a fairy tale, everyone’s going to live happily-ever-after story, but sometimes I just want to relate to the characters in how life doesn’t always present you with a pretty package tied up with ribbons, whether it’s Christmas time or not. Without being depressing or dark, Seven Days of Us took me through what could easily be real life for any of my family or friends.
I’d highly recommend this book. Although the events take place around the Christmas holiday, it’s certainly not only a holiday book. It’s a beautifully written, honest look at interpersonal relationships, family, and life. From the first page through the very last (do NOT read ahead!) it grabbed my interest and held it nicely.
Check out Seven Days of Us. Then go give those you love a big hug!