This is a book that I have been waiting and wanting to read for a very long time. It was easily one of my most anticipated reads of the year and it didn’t disappoint. Today, I’m talking all about the brilliant What Red Was by Rosie Price. Just a warning, this book is about rape, the aftermath of rape, self harm, drug abuse and more.
What Red Was by Rosie Price is, as I’ve said, one of my most anticipated reads of the year. It’s a new debut and everyone is already raving about it. Here’s the blurb:
Throughout their four years at university, Kate and Max are inseparable. For him, she breaks her solitude; for her, he leaves his busy circles behind. But loving Max means knowing his family, the wealthy Rippons, all generosity, social ease and quiet repression. Theirs is not Kate’s world. At their London home, just after graduation, her life is shattered in a bedroom while a party goes on downstairs.
What Red Was explores the effects of trauma on mind and body, the tyrannies of memory, the sacrifices involved in staying silent, the courage of a young woman in speaking out. And when Kate does, this question: whose story is it now?
This blurb is brilliant in that it gives not much away but enough to entice you into the story. I’ve been so looking forward to getting a copy of this, I saw it in my local Waterstones out a few days before publication date and got it straight away. At first, it took me a while to get into as it’s told in the third-person perspective and it switches from different characters but once I got a hold of all the characters, I was hooked. I really think this is a brilliantly written book. Rosie Price is a brilliant writer and I can’t believe that this is her first novel. Her writing is elegant, lyrical, descriptive, raw and incredibly powerful. It’s some of the best writing I have read in a very long time. There are some points in the book, when reading, where I was just lost in awe of her writing. It is seriously brilliant. I loved the use of the different character perspectives, something that I thought was interesting in this novel. Before I read it, I thought it would be in the first-person following Kate after her assault but with the different perspectives of the characters, we see this story of abuse, trauma and family in a number of different ways.
One of the main things I loved about this novel is the dynamic between Kate and Max. We first meet them at the start of university where they meet and immediately form a close bond. I loved these scenes, it reminded me of my own university days and the image of them at university was so clear in my head. It also reminded me slightly of One Day by David Nicholls. I thought there would be something along the same lines as Emma and Dexter and their relationship in One Day but it’s more platonic which Pandora Sykes also said on The High Low when Rosie was interviewed in the last episode. This platonic relationship between Kate and Max is something fresh and something new in the book world, especially right now. There isn’t a lot of male/female friendships that are purely just that – platonic and nothing sexual. They are written brilliantly and they have such an interesting dynamic that develops throughout the novel.
The novel is mostly centred around Kate being raped at a party at Max’s family home and how she deals with this trauma both mentally and physically. Without giving too much away, the rape scene is graphic and it’s brutal. Rosie Price writes, as she does throughout the novel, with unflinching honesty. You know it’s going to happen which makes the scene even more uncomfortable to read. Rosie Price has written this with eloquence and she doesn’t shy away from the true trauma of abuse. When reading it, you can’t help but feel the importance of this book in its brutal honesty and rage.
We follow Kate as she deals with what has happened to her and her mental state as well as physically. She doesn’t go to the police, she doesn’t immediately tell those close to her, she just wants to carry on with her life which is more heartbreaking to read. This also helps with the use of the third-person perspective – we are on the outside, looking in but we also get glimpses of how different characters treat Kate after telling them what happened to her. It’s a hard read but it’s brilliantly written and again, so important. But as it says in the blurb, when she does tell people, it’s the question of: whose story is it now to tell? This is explored throughout the book with a thrilling and compelling conclusion.
As well as Kate’s rape, the story also focuses around the Rippon family. As Kate befriends Max, she is welcomed into his family. They are wealthy and completely different to Kate and her world. I really enjoyed reading about Max and his family – it not only gave more of a perspective of Max as a character but they were great characters in their own right too. I especially loved Zara, Max’s mother, she was one of my favourite characters. The story is also about a family feud as Max’s grandmother dies leaving a massive home that has been throughout the family and Max’s father and his brothers are fighting over what to do with it. Max’s uncle, Rupert, is also a main character. Rupert has a drinking problem that causes tension throughout the family. I loved reading about the dynamic between Max and Rupert as this is a key story throughout the novel and Max’s character. I felt that Max is a character with incredible sadness and he’s dealing with his own issues by the use of alcohol and drugs to try and make himself feel better.
I think Rosie Price has accomplished something brilliant with this book. She has captured the essence of growing up, going to university, starting out in the big wide world. She has captured something special in the dynamics between family and friends. The writing is lyrical, immersive, profound, brutally honest and full of red soaring rage.
This is an important book that I think everyone should read and say hello to a brilliant new voice and force in the literary world. I can’t wait to see what Rosie writes next.
Also, do check out the episode of The High Low with Rosie Price as she talks more about the book, why she wanted to write it, her writing process and her own experiences. It’s a brilliant lesson that is even brilliant after reading it.
Have you read What Red Was? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!