Published: 18 May 2021
Publisher: Riverhead Books
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"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 is eight and she has a secret: she has just killed a boy. The feeling made her belly fizz like soda pop. Her playmates are tearful and their mothers are terrified, keeping them locked indoors. But Chrissie rules the roost -- she's the best at wall-walking, she knows how to get free candy, and now she has a feeling of power that she never gets 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, all she wants is for her daughter to have the childhood she herself was denied. That's why the threatening phone calls are so terrifying. People are looking for them, the past is catching up, and Chrissie fears losing the only thing in this world she cares about, her child.
The First Day of Spring is an incredibly engrossing psychological novel. From the very first line… “I killed a little boy today.” It is told in a dual narrative, from the point of view of young Chrissie and adult Julia. How can a child so young be compelled to commit so heinous a crime?
This book is one of those that will haunt you. It’s a book that treats Chrissie with compassion and sensitivity, but it also doesn’t shy away from the unpleasant parts of her. The conflict between these two sides makes for an odd experience for the reader, but one that is gripping. It is so intense a read at times that it’s almost hard to breathe. It really is an incredibly complex novel as it tells the story of the unthinkable… a child that just may be irredeemable. It is also very thought-provoking, especially in the idea of nature versus nurture. It takes a very gritty look at child neglect, emotional and physical abuse, and the trauma resulting from these. And with all of this is the story of redemption, of finding a way to a new life.
It is very dark, but still somehow beautiful. And it reminds me very much of the true story of Mary Bell.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: