The plot of Judith Kitchen's first novel is deceptively simple. A husband and wife wake up together but go on to spend what appears to be an ordinary day apart.
Molly Bluhm's husband Leo has forgotten their anniversary and, as the day stretches out before her with nothing to fill it, she begins to ponder a life full of missed opportunities and lost dreams. Still reeling from the aftermath of a tragic death years before, Molly's experiences over the course of the day help her to realise that there is still happiness to be had.
There are strong echoes of Joyce's 'Ulysses' here, from the characters' names to the narrative devices, even the 16 June date. The roles are reversed though, and it is Molly's journey that we become engrossed in. Her thoughts and memories permeate the story, giving it tremendous depth and emotion.
It is difficult to imagine what Kitchen's novel would have been without the links with 'Ulysses', and it feels slightly overshadowed by it. Anyone who has never read Joyce's epic might not understand the significance of Kitchen's narrative styles, particularly the soliloquy at the end. Despite that, and suffering from references to an almost caricatured romanticisation of Ireland, the story itself is genuinely riveting.
'The House on Eccles Road' is simple and yet epic in its intricacy. It's emotionally rich and the writing is excellent. The characters are compelling, particularly Molly and Leo and you will surely find yourself pondering the book's depth long after you finish it.