When it comes to Christmas stories, there are three broad categories; romances, ghost stories and tales of yesteryear. As I began my search for a book to recommend this month, I wanted something different and I think I found it.
Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak still offers the light-hearted goodness of a Christmas story, but the holidays are used as a device for getting this dysfunctional family together. Hornak could have chosen another event as the backdrop to the novel; a milestone birthday, a family reunion, or even a funeral. Her choice of the holidays gives the novel just enough Yuletide flavour to make it a fun read this time of year.
Full disclosure here: I almost skipped over this book because it revolves around the Birches family who are locked down for a 7-day quarantine during Christmas. Now, everyone in the publishing industry knows that there will soon be a whole crop of novels about these strange Covid times we’re living in. These kinds of social traumas make a compelling setting for stories of all genres. Books set in either world war are still selling well.
But, Seven Days of Us isn’t about Covid-19. It was published in 2016 and that made me curious. I’m happy to report that the story isn’t about an epidemic. Like Christmas, the disease is being used as a device. The holidays get the family together, the disease keeps them together. So, if you’ve had it up to your eyeballs with talk of the pandemic, and you just want to escape all the heaviness and negativity, fear not. This novel, even with an epidemic, is as refreshing and light as newly fallen snow.
I empathized with Olivia, the eldest daughter and doctor, because she’s constantly trying to corral the other family members who don’t seem to think the quarantine is necessary. Hornak has struck a lovely balance here. She hasn’t made light of a disease, but she hasn’t allowed it to take over her story either. Seven Days of Us could easily have devolved into a maudlin, heartbreaking thriller.
As it is, after the year we’ve had, the Birches struck me as quaint. Not laughable, but naive. They’re us in November 2019. For them, seven days on lockdown on a sprawling British aristocratic estate, unable to attend parties or entertain guests, is agony.
The five family members are strangers to one another. They’re living their separate lives and seem to have little, if anything, in common. In what will come as no surprise to anyone, by the end of the book they’re closer than they’ve ever been and they’ve found meaning in their lives together.
Seven Days of Us is like a middle-class Downton Abbey meets Schitt’s Creek. If you like those stories, you’ll like this.
The audiobook is narrated by Jilly Bond who has 450 audiobooks to her credit. If you want to check out some of her other projects, visit her website: www.jillybond.co.uk