A riveting page-turner about what propels one 8-year-old girl to commit an unspeakable act, and the tensely moving effect it has on the rest of her life – especially once she has a child of her own.
Chrissie is eight years old and she has a secret: she has just killed a boy. The feeling of it made her belly fizz like soda pop. Across her neighborhood, Chrissie’s playmates and their parents are tearful and terrified. But Chrissie rules the roost – she’s the best at wall-walking, she knows how to get free candy, and now she has a secret, thrilling power she doesn’t get to experience much at home, where food is scarce and attention scarcer.
Twenty years later, adult Chrissie is living in hiding under a changed name. A single mother now, she cares deeply for her own young daughter, which is why she’s so terrified when it appears that people are looking for them. The past is coming to catch up with Chrissie and she fears losing her child, the only thing she cares about.
Nancy Tucker leaves the reader breathless as she considers what happens when innocence and survival instincts collide. Tucker inhabits the voices of her young protagonist with a shocking authenticity and precision that moves the reader from sympathy to humour to horror to heartbreak, and back again.
Nancy Tucker was born and raised in West London. She spent most of her adolescence in and out of hospital suffering from anorexia nervosa. On leaving school, she wrote her first book, THE TIME IN BETWEEN (Icon, 2015) which explored her experience of eating disorders and recovery. Her second book, THAT WAS WHEN PEOPLE STARTED TO WORRY (Icon, 2018), looked more broadly at mental illness in young women.
Nancy recently graduated from Oxford University with a degree in Experimental Psychology. Since then she has worked in an inpatient psychiatric unit for children and adolescents and in adult mental health services. She now works as an assistant psychologist in an adult eating disorders service. The First Day of Spring is her first work of fiction
Firstly my thanks to Lisa Jewell for recommending this book and to Selina Walker for sending me an ARC copy.
WOW – this is a book that whatever I write here will NOT do the book, the story, the characters or the author any justice because I don’t think I can put my thoughts down in a way that expresses my feelings coherently, but I will try because this book is simply INCREDIBLE.
I’m not a wordsmith or an expert in writing reviews, I’m just an ordinary reader with a blog who likes to read and recommend books so I feel almost embarrassed that this review won’t get the praise it deserves, but here goes…
The First Day of Spring is Nancy Tucker’s first work of fiction and MY GOD this is OUTSTANDING. This book will NOT appeal to everyone, there are some serious topics which will trigger readers, so I will warn you now, it’s about child neglect and killings and is told through the voice of the child murderer. It’s uncomfortable, raw, brutal and down right disturbing from the opening paragraph to the end of the book.
Chrissie is our 8 year old narrator and her voice is so authentic it’s actually heartbreaking. Growing up with an absent Da and a neglectful Ma, she spends her days wandering the streets looking for something to eat as there is never any food at home, following her friends home because she’s so lonely and trying to make herself seen and heard in the small tight knit community she’s grown up in. All she wants is to be loved and wanted and all she receives is rejection and dismay at her behaviour which is growing more vicious with every knock back she gets. When Chrissie takes her anger and hurt out on a 2 year old boy and kills him, the entire community is in shock but Chrissie manages to avoid being caught as the killer for a while.
Julia is the other narrator, she is Chrissie now aged 25 living under a different identity having served time in a juvenile home from the age of 9 to 18 and now a mother herself to a 5 year old daughter called Molly. When a phone call from her past threatens everything Julia now has, she has no option but to face up to her horrific past before the authorities take away her daughter.
At no point during this book did I feel anything but pity for Chrissie and my heart broke following her journey which was so sad and unnecessary. Chrissie’s mother was as much as victim as Chrissie – a women who didn’t know how to be a mother, didn’t want to be a mother and didn’t have any help or support. Chrissie was left to fend for herself, she was a victim of neglect and was starved not just of food but of love. She overheard being described as a “bad seed” and from that moment on she accepted she was bad and it was only whilst performing bad acts that she felt alive and “seen” by everyone.
I wasn’t able to put this book down, it burrowed deep under my skin, leaving me breathless and sad. I know this is a book of fiction, but Chrissie/Julia became real to me. The murder of the innocent little 2 year old was an act of absolute evil. Chrissie’s thoughts and behaviour were painful to read as a mother and as a human being.
This book is so powerful and so disturbing that I will be thinking about it for months to come. Without a doubt this goes into my Top Ten Books of 2021 and you can buy it on publication day on 24th June 2021.