What Red Was by Rosie Price - review by George Wilson

George Wilson

Damage Report

What Red Was


Harvill Secker 296pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

Rosie Price’s debut novel is a complex examination of agency and sexual assault. At university, Kate becomes friends with Max Rippon and his family. The Rippons adore Kate and she is quickly included in every part of their lives, but this relationship is ruptured when Max’s cousin, Lewis, rapes her at a party. Kate suffers a mental breakdown and severe panic attacks. She eventually begins to open up by confiding in Max’s mother, Zara, but she leaves out the identity of her rapist, meaning that the Rippons struggle to understand or help. Kate’s resulting trauma is unbearable to read. Red – the colour of Lewis’s collar, which she concentrates on while the rape is taking place – becomes ‘the filter through which she apprehended everything’: a marker that drags her back to the horrific moment
of abuse.

What Red Was is unflinchingly visceral, but there are also tender moments of friendship and awkward family life beside the overwhelming damage. The novel includes the perspectives of all the Rippons in the wake of Max’s grandmother’s death. As the Rippons congregate for Christmas, they realise that Rupert, one of

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