Telling a story, especially an adult story, from the point of view of a child is a very difficult thing to get right. Among authors who have been successful in achieving this are Emma Donoghue in Room, John Boyne in The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas and John Harding in Florence & Giles. With the publication of The Night Rainbow, Claire King joins their ranks.
Pea and her sister Margot live with their English mother in the south of France. Their French father died a few months previously and maman, heavily pregnant and suffering in the blistering summer heat is physically and emotionally distant. Pea tells us that maman ‘left her happiness in the hospital with the baby,’ a miscarriage from the previous year.
Pea and Margot spend their days playing in the meadow, searching for the one thing that will make their mother happy again and it is here they meet Claude, a mysterious man with a limp and a dog with whom the girls become fast friends.
King uses a mix of language in the book. Through Pea’s eyes we see the meadows and streams as magical places filled with fairies and wonder. But it is the matter of fact way in which Pea deals with her mother’s negligence where the author’s talents really shine. The way Ms King shows us how a five year old child interprets her mother’s depression is skillful and believable and my heart went out to Pea. I longed to cook her a good meal and give her a hug.
Pea and Margot are characters who stay with you, long after the last page is turned and it is testament to Claire King’s talent that I still think about Pea and hope that she, Maman -and Margot – are happy.