"This all began when Maman came back from hospital last summer, but she didn't bring back a baby like she promised, she left it at the hospital, along with her happiness"
This is the beginning of the story of The Night Rainbow, narrated by five-year-old Pea who is accompanied by her little sister Margot. The girls live in an old, shabby farmhouse in rural France with their mother. Maman is doubly grief-stricken, mourning both her lost baby and Pea's Papa who died in an accident. Heavily pregnant again, Maman spends her days sleeping. Pea remembers the time before the lost baby, times when they all lived happily, with games and laughter, family meals and fruit picking.
Those days are quickly slipping from her memory, these days Pea and Margot fend for themselves. Preparing their food, trying to keep the house clean and creating their own world in the meadows, hills, fields and down by the river.
When Pea meets Claude and his dog Merlin, she finds an adult who does not ask difficult questions. Claude loves the countryside as much as she does and creates a secret 'girl-nest' - a den in a tree, with a constant supply of cool drinks and biscuits.
Claire King has created a wonderfully authentic voice in little Pea, her innocence and optimism shine through in the language and the actions. This is a very special story, that narrated in an adult voice would have a very different feel to it. Pea welcomes Claude with no suspicion, unlike the villagers who regard him as something as a mis-fit, despite the tragedy that he has endured. Pea maintains her belief in magic and fairy worlds throughout the story, she has to deal with some difficult and often painful episodes, yet that little-girl enthusiasm and positivity shines through. For an adult reading the story, the underlying issues are clear and often potentially dangerous, however, the use of Pea's voice enables the reader to see events from another aspect - that of purity and hope.
This is a slow-moving story, with no fast-paced action, it gently unfolds to reveal characters who are troubled, realistic and who the reader really begins to care for. The descriptions of the small town in France are incredibly authentic, drawing a vibrant picture of the somewhat insular community.
The Night Rainbow is Claire King's debut novel, and has proved that she is a very talented author. I will look forward to more books from her in the future.
The Night Rainbow was published by Bloomsbury in February 2013. You can view the wonderful trailer for the book here
Claire King grew up in Mexborough, South Yorkshire but has lived in France for the last ten years with her husband and two young daughters. Her short fiction has been recognised by fancy places such as BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines, New Scientist and The Bristol Short Story Prize.
Her website is www.claire-king.com and details of The Night Rainbow along with a sample chapter and links to where to buy can be found here: http://www.claire-king.