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… Published October 19th 2017 by Piatkus (UK)
I wasn’t going to post a review today, but seeing as how I finished this book just a couple of hours ago I thought there’s no time like the present to start my New Year resolution (well one of them!) of writing my reviews as soon as I finish a book. Besides, being as this book covers the period of 23rd December through to New Years Eve, what more perfect time than now to let you know how much I really liked it!
Christmas themed books have taken off epically in the last few years, and if I’m honest, I tend to avoid a lot of them. For one, December is so maddeningly busy in this house that my reading tends to take a nose dive. I’m a stickler for keeping Christmas to December (I won’t eat a mince pie until the 1st December despite them being in shops from August and seriously loving them!), so picking up a Christmas book in July just wouldn’t be right for me. I’m always a bit wary that they might be a bit cheesy and sentimentally slushy (and I say this having read very few so am quite probably wrong!) and that puts me off a bit. Fear not though …. there is absolutely nothing slushy, sparkly or cheesy about this book.
The Birch family are about to face Christmas in quarantine, when eldest daughter Olivia returns from Liberia where she has been treating victims of a deadly and highly contagious virus. For seven whole days, Andrew and Emma, along with Olivia and youngest daughter Phoebe, must remain indoors, stuck together with no physical contact with the outside world. Already a fractured and resentful family, as tensions rise over the claustrophobic week, secrets are revealed, hidden resentments aired and home-truths shared.
Seven Days of Us is one of those books which relies heavily on characterization rather than plot, and Francesca Hornak certainly writes them very well. She draws each member of the Birch Family so intricately, catching mannerisms and personality traits with meticulous detail, so that each one becomes fully rounded, three dimensional characters who I felt I really understood individually.
While this book is set over the Christmas period, it isn’t really about Christmas. It’s about lost dreams and old resentments, new beginnings and fresh hope. As the family are forced to spend the week together, an opportunity to get to know each other again and understand each other opens up, but with shocking secrets about to revealed, is the tie of family enough to bring these four people, so different from each other, together again as a family.
Filled with flaws – selfishness and bitterness, uncertainty and regrets, there’s a very raw and honest aspect to this glimpse into a family at the brink of falling apart. I liked how the author presented each of the characters as complicit in the dysfunctional dynamics of the family, while allowing the reader to understand intimately what drives their actions. All the while I was hoping they could come together and find peace, despite the twists, turns and tears that lead them to it.
Seven Days of Us was a perfect read for me over the last few days, and I don’t think I could have chosen a better festive read for myself. Although I definitely would recommend this book at any time of the year. Heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure, without a side order of cheese, this poignant and honest book won my heart this Christmas.
I read an advance proof courtesy of the Amazon Vine Program