A Thoroughly Charming Tale
By Dilshani Palugaswewa Ceylon Today Features
I’m not much of a reader but I picked up this book from a dusty shelf, buried in-between books that had gathered even more dust because I almost felt like it called out to me in its beautiful hardcover that is illustrated in the most soothing pastels.
Doing the exact opposite of the adage ‘Don’t judge a book by a cover,’ I did just that, because just by the look of it, I felt it had a deep story confined in the pages that made up its thick, sturdy appearance.
Sold! And no regrets! I spent the next couple of days completely hooked by The Night Rainbow, page after page as I followed five-year-old Pea as she narrated her and her little sister, Margot’s struggle to keep their mother happy as she deals with massive loss that came in quick succession, one, was of the baby she lost from several months before and the other of her husband which occurred not too long ago.
Although the book is written from Pea’s perspective, I guarantee, you will fall in love with her character while you marvel at the innocence and resilience of young children to adapt to even the most tragic events they experience, as they come out on the other side with a spirit like a rainbow. Claire King perfectly captures this in her childlike writing.
Set in rural France, the story is centred on the duo’s mission to do whatever in their capacity to bring a smile to their maman’s face and at all costs, not trouble her as she deals with an incredibly hard time.
Isolated from other villagers and pregnant again, maman has coiled into a space Pea finds hard to reach her, no matter how hard she tries. The sisters try to make the best of their situation in each other’s company as heavily-pregnant maman is unable to cope with dayto-day life out of overwhelming grief coupled with her natural exhaustion in her condition.
While they attempt to handle the house situation with their little hands, cleaning and washing and then cleaning the complete mess they make in their attempt to not make a mess, tugs at your heartstrings, leaving you to wish you could just give them one big hug. Most days the girls spend time away from home, walking through the meadows and making friends with strangers, Claude and his dog, but occasionally, they would get to go to the market with maman or spend the day with her, and the reaction they have in those moments are just heart-warming.
When maman – who very much loves the girls but isn’t quite there for them because she spends most of her time in solitary confinement making sense of her life – stops to appreciate their efforts, the joy it brings to the girls are almost palpable.
The focus of the book is also the loving and caring relationship the two sister’s share and how Margot and Pea navigate what is also a tough time for them, especially Pea who was very close to her father and with him gone and maman rarely by her side, Margot steps up to help Pea through sad days and supressed grief to happier times.
The twist at the end will answer a couple of questions you may or may not have. Either way, you will be surprised to say the least, with the ending. If the outline of this story already has you intrigued, I bet you would have a great time reading the book because it definitely opens a whole new world as an adult to look at the world as how children do.