The First Day of Spring by Nancy Tucker

‘I killed a little boy today.’

Eight-year-old Chrissie, starved of food and affection, kills a child. She thinks he will come back from being dead, but she’s not sure when. Her parents are absent even when they are present: her mammy sometimes forgets to provide food, her da is not often home. Chrissie learns to steal, to impose herself on others to get what she needs. She is a bully, and a liar. It takes a while for the police to get to the bottom of Steven’s murder: no one wants to believe that a child could do such a thing.

‘You had to hurt people when they annoyed you, to teach them a lesson.’

And when Chrissie is finally caught, she spends years in a juvenile home.

Fifteen years later, Julia is a single mother. Her daughter Molly is the most precious part of her life, and she is terrified that she will lose Molly to the social services. Julia is very protective of Molly and reluctant to spend time with any of the other mothers: what would they think of her?

And then Julia starts receiving phone calls which terrify her: someone clearly knows her past.

This is a thought-provoking novel. Ms Tucker’s characterisation of Chrissie is chilling and complex and feels complete. My response is mixed. While deploring many of Chrissie’s actions, I keep wondering about the influence of nurture and the inheritance of nature. Can Chrissie ever move beyond the past? Should she?

Julia, afraid of losing Molly, revisits aspects of her past. Will she find peace? Should she?

I finished reading this novel and I have found that aspects are lingering in my mind. A challenging and heartbreaking read.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith

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