The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker
|The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A psychological thriller which grabs you on the first page and isn't prepared to let you go. Some of the reading is hard - but the execution is brilliant.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: June 2021|
|External links: Author's website|
Sometimes I wonder if I take my pleasures too sadly - and The First Day of Spring was one such occasion. The writing is superb and completely compelling. The characterisation is excellent and the plot grips you and won't let go. So, what's the problem? Well, the problem is Chrissie, the main character. When we first meet her she's just eight years old, small for her age and she readily tells us that she's just killed someone - a two-year-old boy. She's completely cold about what she's done with her main memory being that whilst she was killing - suffocating - her hands seized up. There's a clue that Chrissie isn't completely responsible for her actions a little later in the book: when will Steven come back, she wonders? Hasn't he been dead for long enough?
Chrissie's the child that no one wants to play with, no parent wants their child to associate with her but she suffers an almost unbelievable level of neglect at home and sometimes scrounging food at her classmates' homes, stealing if necessary, is the only way that she's going to eat. The word feral came to mind several times. You begin to have some sympathy for Chrissie until you grasp the depths of evil in her soul. This is an eight-year-old child: the psychopathy would be deeply disturbing in any adult.
Then we meet Julia. She's a single parent to Molly and she certainly doesn't fit the stereotype you might be expecting. If anything Julia is far too protective of her daughter: she wants Molly to have the childhood that she never had. Julia is the name by which Chrissie is now known, after serving her sentence for the murder of Steven in a secure unit. Now it seems that her past might be catching up with her.
I found this a hard, difficult read whilst still knowing that what I was reading was an outstanding work of fiction. Real cases will flash through your mind - Mary Bell, the killers of James Bulger - but they'll never completely eclipse the evil of Chrissie and the tragedy of her life. The read is tense: you're gripped on page one and only reluctantly let go on the final page. Even then the characters stay with you, haunt you. If you're up for this sort of read, then I doubt that you could do better.
I'd like to thank the publishers for allowing Bookbag to have a review copy.
If this book apparels then we can also recommend Humber Boy B by Ruth Dugdall. It's another book which makes you care about the characters.
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