Title: The First Day of Spring
Author: Nancy Tucker
Publication Date: 24th June 2021
‘So that was all it took,’ I thought. ‘That was all it took for me to feel like I had all the power in the world. One morning, one moment, one yellow-haired boy. It wasn’t so much after all.’
Chrissie knows how to steal sweets from the shop without getting caught, the best hiding place for hide-and-seek, the perfect wall for handstands.
Now she has a new secret. It gives her a fizzing, sherbet feeling in her belly. She doesn’t get to feel power like this at home, where food is scarce and attention scarcer.
Fifteen years later, Julia is trying to mother her five-year-old daughter, Molly. She is always worried – about affording food and school shoes, about what the other mothers think of her. Most of all she worries that the social services are about to take Molly away.
That’s when the phone calls begin, which Julia is too afraid to answer, because it’s clear the caller knows the truth about what happened all those years ago.
And it’s time to face the truth: is forgiveness and redemption ever possible for someone who has killed?
This is one of those books that burrows under your skin and remains there forever. It is a truly spectacular and daring take on a question that has been asked time and time again: nature or nurture? It is impossible to answer with any certainty but The First Day of Spring digs deep into the morality and complexity of the issue with a great deal of nuance and sensitivity. The story follows Chrissie, a neglected eight year old who kills a little boy. We follow her in the immediate aftermath and also fifteen years later, as she lives under the protection of a new identity and has a young daughter that she is terrified will be taken from her.
I do feel I have to make clear – this is a harrowing and often deeply upsetting book, it is not an easy or light read but it is also incredibly powerful and so worth reading. Tucker’s willingness to take this subject and really explore the shades of grey within it in such an unflinching yet still somehow respectful manner is remarkable. The horror of what Chrissie does is never undermined, however I defy anyone to read to the end of this book without feeling a sense of compassion for her. I found The First Day of Spring one of the most emotionally gruelling books I’ve read – I felt such heart wrenching sadness with regards to the neglect and abuse she suffers. The fact that there are children out there like Chrissie broke me – this is a work of fiction but it is an undeniable truth that there are millions of children in the world living in poverty, neglect and a complete lack of support and love. There are no easy answers in this story, it is a book that puts you through the wringer and demands discussion and I really couldn’t recommend it any more highly if I tried. It is definitely one of my books of 2021 and is also now up there with my all time favourites. PLEASE read this book – you won’t regret it! An easy five stars from me!
I kindly received a copy of the book from the publisher via Tandem Collective. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.