Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak @FrancescaHornak @PiatkusBook

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How would you feel and react if one of your worst nightmares is to be locked in a crumbling mansion house with your family for seven days over the Christmas holidays?

For the Birch family that nightmare is about to become a reality, when Olivia, a doctor, returns from treating patients with the virulent Haag virus and must spend seven days quarantined with her family. The fact that it is Christmas, combined with a mother who has a secret cancer diagnosis, a sister who loves the luxuries in life, a belligerent journalist Father, and a long lost son, you just know that the seven days are not going to be without drama.

Having heard some great reviews I was looking forward to diving in.

Hornak cleverly uses each character to tell the story from their perspective and we get a real insight into how they view themselves and each other.

Olivia, wants to save the world and cannot bear her sisters superficial outlook on life, and her families lack of understanding of why she works in such dangerous places. I found her to be quite self righteous and irritating to begin with. It wasn’t until Olivia realised her love for fellow doctor Sean, close to death in hospital, a victim of the Haag virus, that her edges began to soften and you actually began to like her.

Phoebe, loves the better things in live, still living at home and extremely close to her father. Engaged to fiance George, who doesn’t quite give her butterflies, but fulfills her need to conform and give her the life she desires. As with Olivia I found her highly irritating but she slowly grew on me as her character found some depth and a grasp on reality.

Mother, Emma, harbours her secret cancer diagnosis in an unselfish attempt to provide her family with a cosy christmas, full of food and good wine without success. The unsung hero of the novel, whom I did feel a slight empathy, always there, likeable and utterly put upon by her entire family.

Andrew, the father, is a retired war journalist, now a restaurant critic with an acid pen, hiding in the smoking room, hiding from his family and their problems. I wanted to shake him at times, with his typical old school attitude, not sure how to handle the women in his life and  any awkward situation.

Add into the mix Jesse, the long lost son of Andrew and the hapless fiancee George and Hornak has created a veritable array of characters. I have to say I did find the and some of the situaions a little stereotypical but I think that only added to the enjoyment of the novel, creating an abundance of drama and funny situations as they  all reverted to character.

The drama didn’t stop from start to finish. At times funny, at times serious, each character slowly revealed their secrets and the family dynamics slowly began to change. Yes it was predictable, but utterly compelling, and a real lesson in how our behaviour is somehow magnified when in forced confinement.

This novel is just made for TV and it is no surprise that the TV rights have already been snapped up.

A real holiday read perfect if you fancy escaping over the christmas holidays!!

About the author

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Francesca Hornak is a journalist and writer whose work has appeared in numerous magazines such as The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Marie Claire, Elle and Cosmopolitan.

Francesca has written two works of non-fiction, History of the World in 100 Modern Objects:Middle Class Stuff and Nonsense and Worry with Mother:101 Neuroses for the Modern Mama.

The TV rights of Seven Days of Us has already been signed up by Little Island Productions.

Histories by Sam Guglani @samirguglani @riverrunbooks @bookbridgr

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Histories by Sam Guglani  River Run November 2nd 2017

Never out of the headlines, the NHS provides writers and journalists in particular with endless stories. More often they portray the inadequacies of the service with the occasional good news thrown in.

Guglani’s Histories, using short interlinked stories, provides us with an insight of the NHS. Over the course of a week he uncovers the life of a hospital and its inhabitants, from the cleaner to the patient, junior doctor and consultant.

There is the consultant who wonders if he really does care about his patients or are they just another person on ever growing production line, never able to give them the time they deserve or even want.

In another story a hairdresser watches helplessly as a fellow patient fights for their life and there is the cleaner who locks the doctors mess door in order to feed a homeless man.

What I loved about these stories and Guglani’s writing is the sparseness of the narrative. No word appeared to be wasted, yet they had an intensity to them, beautifully capturing the emotions of the characters and the drama of a busy hospital.

Guglani is not necessarily complementary about his fellow medical professions and their blown up sense of self importance, but it only serves to highlight the dilemma’s they often confront. We have to realise that they too are human and suffer medical emergencies and still have the same fears as the patients they tend to. A good example is the nurse who finds a lump on her throat yet is reluctant to seek help, fearful of what it might mean, perhaps knowing all too well what it may mean.

Through the eyes of the porter and the cleaner we get a differing perspective of the hospital and its inhabitants. The ingratitude of the doctors leaving a mess in the staff room, or the way in which patients and junior doctors are spoken too. You can sense that they wish they could step in and say something, when their role is mainly to remain invisible, to prop up the hospital, to make it work the way it should, to allow others to do their job.

The interlinking of the stories is seemless, and as you read you slowly begin to realise how they all fit together, how each character, each profession depends on the other. If one aspect was missing how would this huge machine we call a hospital actually work?

The book itself may not be very long, but it has an impact, it makes you think, it makes you look at the the medical profession and hospitals with a slightly different perspective. There are two sides to a story, there are two sides to the NHS and maybe this is something we forget and should think about just a little bit more in the future.

Sam Gugalni’s stories are thought provoking and wonderful and I cannot wait to read what he writes next.

Thank you to Bookbridgr and River Run for the opportunity to read and revie

About the author

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Sam Guglani is Clinical Consultant Oncologist and a writer based in Cheltenham. He is the Director and creator of Medicine Unboxed. Founded in 2009 its aim is to engage medical professionals and the public in conversations about health via the arts.

He has completed a Masters in creative writing at Oxford, has written poetry and is also a writer for the Lancett.

Histories is his first novel.