The First Day of Spring
By Nancy Tucker
Published by Hutchinson Lead Debut Fiction
What it’s about?
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.
Chrissie is eight years old and she has just killed a two-year-old boy.
Her playmates are tearful and their mothers are terrified, keeping them locked up indoors. Chrissie doesn’t get to feel power like this at home, where food is scarce and attention scarcer.
As the fallout from the crime sweeps through her neighbourhood, Chrissie’s circumstances are illuminated – a hand-to-mouth existence, an abysmally neglectful mother and a community who are aware, but prefer to sweep any uncomfortable truths away.
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. Julia is too afraid to answer, because it’s clear the caller knows the truth. Julia wants to give Molly the childhood she was denied, and that means leaving Chrissie in the past. But Chrissie doesn’t want to be left behind.
What I think?
Wow. This book blew me away.
It’s dark and shocking, but also poignant and thought provoking. I both hated and sympathised with Chrissie who is such a powerful protagonist.
Tucker writes beautifully and Chrissie’s voice is so clear from the outset. She is both naive and wise. The levels of neglect she experiences and some of the scenes with her mother are truly heartbreaking. It’s impossible to to feel sympathy for her as she faces a day to day battle to find food and affection while her mother ignores her.
The consequences of Chrissie’s action are devastating in so many ways. The neighbourhood is forever changed and the grief of Stephen’s mother and the impact it has on her elder daughter is heart wrenching.
As an adult, Julia is desperately trying to be the mother she never had. She stays in control with strict routines and is ever watchful of her daughter. She finallybinderstands the fear and sense of loss felt by the community that she only witnessed as a child.
This is a hard book to read but it is beautifully written. And despite knowing the horrible crimes that Chrissie commits as a child I still found myself hoping that her future would be better. It certainly gets you thinking about the causes and consequences of crime for children and the waybsociett is wiling to turn a blind eye to neglect and poverty.
A poweful and heart wrenching book.
About the author:
Nancy Tucker recently graduated from Oxford University with a degree in Experimental Psychology. She currently works in an NHS mental health unit.
Her memoir of her childhood struggle with anorexia, The Time in Between, was published in 2015. Her follow-up, That Was When People Started to Worry, an examination of young women’s mental
health, was published in 2018. The First Day of Spring is her first work of fiction.
Inspiration for the book from the author:
‘Like many people, I have always been vaguely conscious of historic cases in which children have killed other children, and have found them interesting. The ‘trigger’ event for my writing the book was listening to a (terrible, gratuitous) true crime podcast
where they were discussing one such case. I was surprised by the level of vitriol that was expressed towards the 11-year-old perpetrator, who seemed to me to be both victim and aggressor. This led me
to imagining the how it would feel to come out of prison as a young adult with a crime like that in one’s past…. There are many books about people who have been through adversity and come out on top. There are far fewer books about people who have been through adversity, but have also been the
cause of adversity for others, and whether they can – or should – be given the chance to come out “on top”’.
Thank you to Hutchinson Lead Debut Fiction for my gifted copy if this novel, and to Vaness at Nessie’s Book Tours for inviting me to be a part of this gripping blog tour.