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
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.