Book Review: The First Day Of Spring by Nancy Tucker

The ARC of ‘The First Day Of Spring’ has been sitting on my Kindle for ages, but NetGalley told me the publication date was 17 February 2022 – so I’d not been rushing to read it – but it turns out it’s already out in some formats anyway (sometimes NetGalley seems to have UK / US publication date issues, as well as only giving the date for some formats – and sometimes I think dates change, or I’m being blonde!) Anyway – if you like the sound of it, you can buy it already. Here’s the blurb:

“‘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?”

The book follows the story of Chrissie, an 8 year old child who commits a terrible crime – and 15 years later, single Mum Julia and her 5 year old daughter Molly.

With the historic storyline, you know that the crime has been committed from the start – so it’s not really a mystery – you’re just working through how everything happened and Chrissie’s actions were discovered.

This is not an easy read, and at the start I did wonder if I would persevere. Chrissie has such an awful upbringing and her circumstances are so very sad with her witnessing and being subjected to neglect and violence. Whilst it doesn’t forgive what she does – it does go some way to explain it. Her life is just horrible. It’s written in a way that just accepts that is the norm – it doesn’t glamourise or play down the situation – it’s just taken as that is Chrissie’s lot in life. Sadly I expect this is the case for lots of children around the country, it’s just many of us are protected from seeing that on a day to day basis.

To be honest, Julie and Molly’s life isn’t much better – and is equally harrowing at times. There is limited light and shade in this book, it is all pretty dark, although there are glimmers of hope towards the end. You really hope that the chain has finally been broken.

Despite the distressing content, I did want to keep reading to find out how the stories intertwined and played out. Overall I’m glad I persevered, it did really make me think, and was quite ‘different’ in a good way. I’m not sure you could say you ‘enjoyed’ it given the storylines.

The very final chapter is written from a third perspective – which was a clever touch – and particularly how a tooth falling out is dealt with compared to earlier in the story. A real ‘book club discussion point’ I would suggest.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for my ARC – even if it would appear I wasn’t very advanced in reading it!