Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak
Random House: 10/17/17
eBook review copy; 368 pages
Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak is a dysfunctional family drama, so-so for me, but recommended for the right reader.
The Birch family is going to spend Christmas together - in quarantine.
Emma and Andrew Birch will be spending seven days at Weyfield Hall,
their country estate, with their two daughters. Their oldest daughter,
Olivia, is a doctor who is returning from
treating an epidemic in Liberia, the Haag virus. She has to stay in
quarantine for a week, and so must her family if she is with them.
Olivia views her family as rather superficial and foolish. Youngest
daughter Phoebe is
shallow, self-centered, and focused on her upcoming wedding. Andrew, a
restaurant reviewer, has received an email from an illegitimate son he
knew nothing about, and Emma is keeping an even bigger secret from them
in hopes of having a wonderful family Christmas.
Each chapter in Seven Days of Us is written from a different
character's point of view. They are short, quick chapters. This does
help move a very s-l-o-w start along any quicker, but at least you get
to read about what another character is thinking/doing. Everyone has a
secret, but the secrets are all out and running rampant for the reader.
The novel then sets up a series of unbelievable coincidences that all
collide and help expose all the secrets. Did I mention that it starts
out very s-l-o-w. Extremely s-l-o-w. Add to this the host of unlikable
characters and it was difficult for me to make myself continue to read
because it all seemed so pointless to spend that much time with
characters that I didn't remotely care about.
I also had a very difficult time with the big set-up, that the
family was all to be under quarantine. A quarantine for a doctor
returning from working in an area with an
epidemic (called the Haag virus here, think Ebola or Marburg virus
for comparison purposes) does not consist of being locked up with
your family for Christmas and relying on them to stay isolated and
others to read the notice and stay away. Period. And the family
members were all ignoring the seriousness of that premise anyway - going
out, inviting people in. They sort of proved themselves to be foolish,
again and again. They are, however, more caricatures than real
characters, so it just comes off as farcical.
Obviously many readers liked this one more than me. There are some
amusing scenes, but I never found anything "laugh-out-loud funny." The
quality of the writing is good. If you like The Family Stone
-type dramas this might fit the bill. The actual drama and humor is more
low-key, though. It might, dare I say, make a better movie than a book
because you could pick up the pace, add a bit more real humor, and make
all the coincidences seem likely. (2 for me, 3 for the right audience)
My review copy was courtesy of Penguin