Charming literary debut with themes of loss, grief and the resilience of children
During a hot summer in the south of France, Pea's mother is struggling to drag herself through the days, just months after losing her husband in an accident. Worse, all this follows a miscarriage that she doesn't seem to have recovered from. Heavily pregnant and isolated due to being English and locked in her grief, Pea and her little sister Margot are often left to themselves. In the course of the novel, they meet and befriend a man called Claude, but some of their neighbours seem not to approve of his interest in the girls.
The power of this novel lies in the voice. Beautifully rendered, Pea's account of her summer and her mother's depression are often all the more poignant for the lack of understanding Pea demonstrates. I found this to be an atmospheric and emotional (but never sentimental) read, which I greatly enjoyed. There are some real heart-in-the-mouth moments and at times real danger seems to be stalking the girls, while poor Maman just fails to cope. It is a real testament to the strength of the writing that our sympathies are stretched between Maman and the girls without ever feeling impatient or less than kindly towards Maman.
Overall I would definitely recommend this, and will be looking out for more from Claire King.
From Goodreads:The Night Rainbow is the story of a little girl named Pea, the world she creates to win back her mother's love, and the stranger she trusts to save them both.
It is summer in the south of France, and Pea and her little sister Margot spend their days running free and inventing games in the meadow behind their house. But Pea is burdened with worries beyond her five and a half years. Her father has died in an accident, and her mother has just lost a baby. Maman is English, isolated in this small, foreign village, and in her sadness has retreated even further. Pea tries her best to help, makes Margot behave, brings home yellow flowers, but she can't make Maman happy again. When Pea meets Claude, a man with a dog who seems to love the meadow as she does, she believes that she and Margot have found a friend, and maybe even a new Papa. But why do the villagers view Claude with suspicion and what secret is he keeping in his strange, empty house?