The Night Rainbow by Claire King

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The Night Rainbow by Claire King

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Gina Garnett
Reviewed by Gina Garnett
Summary: Sad but somehow also sweet, this is a touching read. Keep the hanky ready!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 263 Date: August 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1408841846

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You know, there’s no reason a book has to be happy in order to be good. The Night Rainbow is proof of this. Set geographically in France and actually in the head of a five year old girl, it follows the adventures of the summer when Pea’s (short for Peony or Pivoine, depending who you ask) pregnant mother was too miserable to care for her; the summer following the still birth of Pea’s sister and the tragic accidental death of her father.

While it is quite sweet and retains a lot of Pea’s innocence, the over ruling theme of child neglect and abuse is genuinely upsetting. Not only does Maman ignore Pea almost entirely in favour of sleep, forcing her to fend for herself as best she can. Not only are the rare occasions when Maman pays any attention to her marked with verbal lashings. Not only does Pea spend the book treading on eggshells and taking on the necessary housework. Not only all this, but no one rescues her. Not one neighbour or relative does more than lightly berate Maman on this subject. No care for Pea. Fair warning to you, but this does not necessarily make for comforting or comfortable reading.

As I said above though, that doesn’t mean it isn’t good or that it’s not worth reading. The description is imaginative and crystal clear and the voice is very true (if slightly eloquent) for a five year old heroine. You don’t just get a mental image of what’s happening, you get a real feeling of it. The baking heat of the weather, the sense of wonder at the world, the ever permeating melancholy of a life where love no longer really exists. It’s quite easy to become absorbed and to start feeling like you’re there with Pea. This emphasises the point I made above. It’s a sad read because you feel for little Pea. You empathise with the sadness she understands and sympathise for her over the things that don’t hurt her because they’ve gone over her head. She is innocent, she doesn’t understand that she’s neglected or that she’s a victim. She’s too busy being Pea.

It’s well put together, too. I have to admit that the reveal of the major plot point came as a surprise to me, although when I flicked back through the signs were all there. That’s a hallmark of real talent. Another one is managing a happy ending (although who knows if Maman will remain inclined to look after Pea?) from such a truly sorrowful story. Both of these things are what truly separate this novel from the run of the mill misery fiction and turn it into something worth reading over and again (just not when you want cheering up!).

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.

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Buy The Night Rainbow by Claire King at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Night Rainbow by Claire King at Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
Buy The Night Rainbow by Claire King at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Night Rainbow by Claire King at


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