The Night Rainbow – A hauntingly beautiful read

Book Title: The Night Rainbow
Author: Claire King

What do you do if you lose your papa in an accident and your maman, pregnant with a baby, moves to a far away place in her head where you cannot reach her? In a place where she cannot abide loud noises, cooks when she feels up to it but mostly keeps to her room?

Well, you take care of yourself the best you can even if you’re just five. You make sure you don’t bother maman, you play in the meadow, splash around in the stream and eat fruits or make yourself a sandwich when you’re hungry. Most of all, you try to find ways to make maman happy because you want her back with all the wanting in your little heart.

That’s the story

..of five and half year old Peony, better known as Pea, her little sister Margot and their mum Joanna. As Joanna loses herself to depression the two little girls are left to their own devices. They spend their days talking and playing. During their wanderings they meet a man, Claude and Merlin his dog, and strike up a friendship. Claude keeps his distance even though he is affectionate and caring but the girls come to look upon him as the father figure they miss so much.

Set in the summer of a small French village, that is the all the plot you’ll find in The Night Rainbow. It isn’t much, so if you’re looking for a story you will be disappointed. Nothing really happens. The narrative has the dull sameness of the  routine of Pea’s days. As you progress through the pages you wait for something to happen. You wait for the market days when Pea gets to go out with her mum as much as she does. You look forward to her interactions with Calude or even the small chance encounters with other village folk.

But here’s the thing, the book draws you in. You step into it and you feel what Pea is feeling. You find yourself grinning when she manages to draw a smile from Joanna, you cringe in the dark with her as she battles her imagined monsters and you want to hold her and hug away her yearning for a real family.

This one isn’t meant to be read for its racy narrative, it is one of those soul-stirring stories whose beauty lies in its slowness. There’s a bit of a revelation towards the end which makes the story even more poignant. And I wonder how I missed it through the book.

Perhaps the book affected me as it did because it spoke in a child’s voice.

Pea was a delightful heroine. Sometimes she seems a trifle old for her age but I forgave her considering she’s had to run her life on her own. I had to try hard to not get judgemental about Joanna. Mothers cannot afford the luxury of withdrawing into themselves when they have a five-year-olds to look out for. My heart broke for Pea as she tries, tries ever so hard to make Joanna happy. Her deep yearning to bring a smile to her maman’s face, for the hugs, the kisses and the cuddles, for the warmth of the old times and her childish attempts towards that are heartbreaking. When she fights the night demons, her loneliness is palpable and yet so strong is her concern for Joanna that she is refuses to wake her up.

There were times where I wanted to shake Joanna out of her depression. If that were even possible. But when I would put away the  judgemental mum in me I’d feel so so sorry for her. To have lost a baby first then your husband, to be far away from your own home, with hostile in-laws, heavily pregnant and all alone – how terrible must that be. She tries. She cooks somedays and smiles too but the sadness weighs too heavily on her leaving her lethargic and uncaring.

Though Pea rarely cries or even complains, her longing is tangible and that is what makes this a sad, haunting, beautiful read. When Shelly said ‘the most beautiful songs were born out of the saddest things’ he could have been talking about The Night Rainbow.

Last thought: It’s definitely worth a read but it’s likely to pull you down into a well of sadness so pick it up with care.

This is my Review of the Month for the review collection on

12 Replies to “The Night Rainbow – A hauntingly beautiful read”

  1. The way you have described the story! It creates lovely imagery.

    It sounds poignant and intriguing. The setting —a french village —seems interesting. Adding it to my TBR. Thanks for this lovely review. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like you this is the first book I read which was set in the summer of a French Village and I realised it wasn’t much different from the hot Indian summer. Pea reminded me of a village kids – the ones I’ve seen roaming around unescorted and free unlike city children.


  2. Reminds me of what my hubby and SIL told me about their childhood when MIL had been sucked into a mental battle with the demon called schizophrenia. These two were just kids when things started going all wrong at their home and they were left to take care of themselves, At that age, having a mother who is in no position to take care of her kids for she has her own battles to fight, god, I can’t even imagine what kind of childhood they have. Hubby told me once, how he had a mother and yet, didn’t get the love he yearned as a son. Makes my heart heavy even writing about it here.
    I was only thinking about the likeness in Pea’s childhood and my hubby and SIL’s childhood. Really and utterly sad. 😦
    How do these kids survive the difficult moments when they don’t even know what’s going on?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How terrible must it have been! Did they have no relatives to watch out for them? I cannot even begin to imagine what it must have been like. One doesn’t know whom to feel more sorry for – the mom or the child.


      1. They did have their chacha-chachi and cousins watching out for them, but when they moved homes, they were on their own. SIL had to care for her mom right when she was a girl…and things used to be bad when she would be given the ECT…(shocks) she would lose all control over her body and these kids and their dad had to care for her. Life is rather cruel when it puts little ones in such circumstances, isn’t it? My heart goes out to kids of mentally ill parents. Wonder what kind of a life they live. And we grumble about how our parents were strict with us. At least they were healthy! 😦


  3. I could be Pea’s mother in many ways and I can empathise with Pea’s lonely life which is joined by her baby sister. I would so like to read this book but am afraid of the sadness it will cause me in and sadness is what I don’t need at present from any external source.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup Anamika that is exactly why I put the warning in the recommendation. I felt low after reading it. You stay away from it till you’re in a better frame of mind. Parenting is a tough job and without a support system it can’t be easy. Sending you hugs and the offer of a chat whenever you need it.


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