Christmas is a family time. We all put a lot of pressure on ourselves in trying to live up to the traditional Christmas ideal. Most of us fall short. Although we all love our families, we don’t always like them. In “Seven Days of Us” we visit a family who are forced into spending an entire week with each other, with no reprieve.
Each member of the Birch family have their own worries, secrets, and frustrations. For seven days (Dec. 23-30th, 2016) they are under quarantine. They must avoid all contact with the outside world. As is their family tradition, they spend Christmas week at Weyfield Hall, Emma’s inherited and slightly run-down manor house in Norfolk.
“It was strange how such a big house could be so claustrophobic.”
Emma Birch (the mother) is a sixty-year-old woman who comes from ‘old’ money. She has two adult daughters and a husband who pays her little attention. They rub along together out of habit more than true affection. Passion is a thing of the past. The gulf between husband and wife seems to widen with each day that passes “Emma has a secret…
Andrew Birch (the father) was once a war-correspondent in Lebanon. Now he writes articles on restaurants as a food critic. After thirty years of marriage he finds little to say to his wife Emma. He has never been able to really communicate with his elder daughter Olivia. It is his younger daughter Phoebe that is the ‘apple of his eye’. Andrew has a secret…
Olivia Birch (the eldest daughter) is a physician. She has just returned from three months in Liberia where she has worked with the victims of the highly contagious Haag epidemic. While in Liberia, Olivia met and fell in love with another physician, an Irishman named, Sean Coughlan . It is because of Olivia that the quarantine is necessary. She finds it hard to re-acclimatize herself to life in England after seeing the poverty and trauma in Liberia. “When I shut my eyes, all I hear is children crying.” Olivia has a secret…
Phoebe Birch (the youngest daughter) is the spoiled baby of the family. At twenty-nine years of age, she still lives at home with her mother and father. She accompanies her father on his visits to restaurants and serves as his muse in the writing of his columns. Phoebe is newly engaged to George, the son of a wealthy family. George has a secret…
Jesse (the illegitimate son) was adopted as an infant and moved to the United States. Now in his early thirties he wants to re-connect with his birth-father. Devastatingly handsome, Jesse is gay and works as a documentary film-maker. He travels to Norfolk in attempt to get to know the man responsible for half of his genetic makeup.
“I know, now, that life is too short to sweat the small stuff. Because to sweat the small stuff, day in, day out, is the great quotidian tragedy of our cosseted Western world.”
Christmas week was the perfect time to read this delightful debut novel.
Because the book was written via the points of view of each member of the Birch family, the reader becomes acquainted with each personality intimately. All of their strengths and all of their weaknesses, their insecurities, their secrets… The reader becomes anxious for all of these secrets to be divulged, as they must surely do… But then, how will they cope with learning these secrets?
The writing was adept and the narrative moved along at a good pace. The setting was well described. I didn’t want the novel to end, yet when it did, I immediately wished that we could revisit these characters in a further book….
This is domestic drama at its finest. Family secrets, sibling rivalry, parenting, marital apathy, and much more are covered within its pages. All ardent fans of such television shows such as “Parenthood” or “This is Us” will delight in Francesca Hornak’s debut. Highly recommended!
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. Seven Days of Us is her debut novel.
Follow Francesca Hornak on Twitter.