The Night Rainbow by Claire King is the story of Pea, a five year old girl who knows far too much about the hardships of life for such a young age. As she and four year old little sister Margot explore the French countryside surrounding their mother's home Pea inadvertently tells us about her knowledge of babies who don't come back from the hospital, her Papa who died and how difficult it is for her Maman to be pregnant again. Pea looks after herself and Margot without anyone stepping in or caring until she comes across Claude, a local man who takes the time to care for Pea and help provide for her.
I struggled a little with this book, not because it was badly written or because it lacked anything, but because it has an awful synopsis. Maybe it is just my penchant for reading crime thriller novels, but upon reading the original synopsis (which you can find here if you want to have a look) I was very wary of the character Claude, so imagine my surprise when there turned out to be no need to be as wary as I had been. As a result I spent most of the book waiting for some big bad event to occur that simply did not, I anticipated more grief for the already heavily grief ridden Maman, it completely altered the way I perceived this novel. It became less about a little girls depiction of her strength and more the less than idyllic life before it got worse. For me this was definitely a case of bad publishing.
If I were to read this again, or to read it without reading the original synopsis, I really do think I would enjoy it immensely, the perspective is that of a five year old, and I believe King has written this very well. It is very difficult to emulate an age that we are not, but Pea doesn't know too much or too little, and as is often the case with her age group she is incredibly observant.
Pea's view of the world is often lighthearted and upbeat despite her struggles to keep herself and Margot clean and healthy. Her descriptions of the location are marvellous, often making me wish I could still appreciate a tree or a meadow in the same way. Occasionally I found Pea difficult to read purely because as an adult we do not have the same patience for the small things in the same way that a small child does, and so I occasionally wished that more focus had been placed on snippets that were glossed over, and vice versa.
The story lacks a bit of drive, it is more of a float along read where you are taking in the scenery rather than one that drives you to keep turning the pages, but it is enjoyable to read despite its frustrations. The characters are charming and the world idyllic, and you are left feeling like your heart is softened in some way. I recommend this book, but please take no notice of the synopsis and simply enjoy the story as it comes to you.