When Chrissie was eight, she killed a child. Fifteen years later, she has one of her own.
I killed a little boy today. Held my hands around his throat, felt his blood pump hard against my thumbs. He wriggled and kicked and one of his knees caught me in the belly, a sharp lasso of pain. I roared. I squeezed. Sweat made it slippy between our skins but I didn’t let go, pressed and pressed until my nails were white. It was easier than I thought it would be.
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 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 working in a fish and chip shop and 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 – that Julia is Chrissie, living under the new name given to her when she was released from prison eight years before.
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.
The First Day of Spring blew me away – what an intense, dark but gripping read! This book takes the reader on a real rollercoaster and made me really think about how we judge people without knowing what elements in their past might make them behave a certain way, all whilst remaining very readable and unique. The story starts with Chrissie, an eight-year-old girl who has some real problems. She is mean, twisted and violent – and as we start the book, Chrissie has just killed a young toddler. We then find out more about her background and family life, meaning I felt a bit of sympathy for her – but not a lot, I have to admit, because she just seems like such a horrible, unlikeable child! But, as we soon discover, her upbringing has been pretty horrible too, so she hasn’t had the luxury of a solid and loving family.
Fast forward twenty years and we reconnect with Chrissie, now living as Julia with a new identity. She’s got a child of her own, which immediately rang alarm bells for me – a) should she be allowed to be looking after a child with her history? and b) will her daughter end up just like her? This no doubt reflects the judgemental thoughts the general public would have about her if they knew she was actually Chrissie. Julia feels those worries too, and we see inside her head as an adult and realise her childhood has truly messed her up (no surprises there) but she’s trying to be better.
This book is such a skillfully written book as it really makes you confront your assumptions and possible prejudices about people. Obviously, what Chrissie did as a child was horrendous – she ruined another family’s life forever in the worst possible way – but as this novel continues we see more and more that she was a product of her horrible upbringing. It’s a difficult and emotional read at times – and very, very dark.
I wouldn’t recommend reading this if you’re wanting an uplifting book, as it definitely doesn’t fit into that category, but if you’re in the market for something bold, thought-provoking and intense then this is a really intriguing novel. I found it hard to put down and will certainly be reading future novels from Nancy Tucker.
Many thanks to the publisher, Cornerstone, for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.