I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy of Francesca Hornak’s debut novel SEVEN DAYS OF US last spring at BookExpo. This is exactly the kind of book I like most: clever, snarky, touching, relatable. She’s a gifted writer, filling the pages with finely-wrought sentences so engaging in their own right, you could read them without a plot and still enjoy the book. Fortunately, however, there is a plot, and it’s a great one.
Reminiscent of Emma Straub’s The Vacationers or Jonathan Tropper’s This is Where I Leave You, debut novel SEVEN DAYS OF US is a bright, wryly-observed family drama with a delicious premise: a dysfunctional British family is quarantined together over the Christmas holiday for a week. We meet the Birches as they reenter each other’s orbits for the first time in years, gathering in their crumbling country manor, each packing long-simmering resentments and secrets. Anyone who loves their family—in small doses—will relate to the inner thoughts of each character. You can’t choose your family, but as the Birch family will discover, that might be the luckiest thing of all.
Interview with Francesca Hornak:
When you were a teenager, what did you think you’d be when you grew up?
I thought I’d go into advertising. I loved commercials (I have an embarrassingly short attention span) and I liked the idea of making up little songs and stories about new detergents or ice creams or whatever. Then when I graduated I had an interview at Saatchi & Saatchi and they asked me to analyse a particular cell phone brand, and I had nothing to say. I know now that the reality isn’t quite my Mad Men fantasy.
Which talent do you wish you had?
I’d love to be an amazing dancer. That always serves you well, I think. Sadly it wasn’t meant to be.
What time of day do you love best?
I used to love very early morning, because nobody else was awake except me. Now I have two small children and I love 11pm for the same reason.
What are the hardest and easiest things about your job?
The hardest thing about writing fiction, having been a journalist, is letting go of knowing every word of a piece of writing – or at least having a sense of each paragraph. I’d compare the change to a gardener, accustomed to pruning a small flowerbed, being put in charge of a forest. The easiest thing is getting to ‘work’ in cafes, and wearing athleisure every day.
Do you have any phobias?
Vomit. God knows what possessed me to write a novel about an epidemic whose primary symptom is nausea.
Talk about one book that made an impact on you.
Notes on A Scandal by Zoe Heller. I love books with creepy, unreliable narrators – I don’t need to like a protagonist. I think Lolita is a brilliant book, for the same reason.
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. She is the author of two nonfiction books, History of the World in 100 Modern Objects: Middle-Class Stuff (and Nonsense) and Worry with Mother: 101 Neuroses for the Modern Mama.
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— The Debutante Ball (@DebutanteBall) October 21, 2017