One of Vintage's three key debuts for 2019, this contemporary tale of sexual violence and class feels fresh and urgent. Kate and Max meet at university and form an instant, platonic bond. When he introduces her to his wealthy, cultured family in London, it's a world away from the single-parent household she grew up in. But one night, at a party in his family home, Kate is raped. The consequences of this shattering event on Kate, and those around her, are powerfully explored. On this basis of this debut Price, a former RCW staffer, has a stellar career ahead.
Occasionally a debut novel arrives that is so assured, so confident in its voice, so skilful in its plotting and characterisation that it seems like the work of a seasoned author. Rosie Price’s What Red Wasintroduces an exciting new voice to fiction... After Kate is subjected to a horrific sexual attack in Max’s family home, Price conveys the brutal psychological aftermath... There are several themes at play in What Red Was: sexual abuse, inherited trauma, emotional repression, family dysfunction, grief, disappointment, class… Narratives are cleverly interwoven to create a richly textured whole. The writing is polished, wise and possessed of remarkable emotional intelligence. Price is just 26; I cannot wait to see what she produces next.
It comes as no surprise to read that Price herself was raped, since it’s the main premise of the novel and the part that rings true. In particular, her descriptions of the fine line between sexual arousal and self-disgust, between pain and pleasure during the act of intercourse, and how quickly one can turn into the other are especially well done. Kate’s feelings of constant helplessness and shame are vividly evoked too...But since this is so obviously Price’s story, might she not have been better off telling it as just that, rather than constructing a flimsy narrative with clichéd characters, many of whom are “toxic” simply by virtue of being upper-class?
This is not a novel concerned with bringing a rapist to justice or destroying the smug insouciance of a privileged family. It’s more interested in how Kate, the victim, deals with her assault. She tells no one for a long time and even when she gradually opens up to one or two close friends, including Max, she refuses to name her attacker... The strength of the book lies in Price’s ability to delve deep into Kate’s mental anguish in the months that follow... The novel is not flawless. Although he’s central to the action, Max is a little underwritten... Small quibbles aside, this is a strong debut by an incredibly young author, an assured and challenging novel that suggests an incipient talent worthy of notice.
Rosie Price is a young writer with a voice as fresh as new paint. In her debut, What Red Was, she takes on the subject of rape and its after-effects... [W[e’re in the familiar territory of Brideshead Revisited and The Great Gatsby, in which an outsider observes a privileged elite. This story, however, quickly swerves off the well-trodden path into something disturbingly different... I’m not surprised that there was a fierce bidding war for this novel. Price’s writing has a beautiful assurance, and she describes the after-effects of rape in a way that should make readers question their own prejudices.
Kate and Max come from different worlds. They've been inseperable since university, but when Kate is attacked at a graduation party hosted by Max's family, her life is shattered. Deeply traumatised, she stays quiet. But the effects of her trauma are overwhelming and far-reaching. A powerful read.