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About the book
  • Published: 21 May 2019
  • ISBN: 9781787301399
  • Imprint: Harvill Secker
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $37.00

What Red Was

A startling and sophisticated novel of modern love, sexual violence and toxic inheritance from a brilliant new British voice

'I think this is the best debut fiction I've ever read... I'm still in awe of it, I think about it all the time. If you like David Nicholls, Tessa Hadley, Elizabeth Day, Meg Wolitzer, Donna Tartt, then pre-order this book. It's exceptional.'

-- Pandora Sykes, The High Low (12 Dec 2018)
Featured in 'the hottest-tipped debut novelists of 2019' -- Observer

‘Kate Quaile,’ he said. ‘I like your name.’
Kate frowned. ‘How do you know my name?’

Through 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 apart 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?

‘Subversive and sophisticated’ Elle

  • Pub date: 21 May 2019
  • ISBN: 9781787301399
  • Imprint: Harvill Secker
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 304
  • RRP: $37.00

About the Author

Rosie Price

Rosie Price is 26 years old and grew up in Gloucestershire where WHAT RED WAS is partly set. After reading English at Cambridge she worked as an assistant at a literary agency before leaving to focus on her own writing. Rosie currently lives in London.

Praise for What Red Was

“Subversive and sophisticated… [Rosie Price’s] exploration of sexual violence and class makes for an unforgettable read”

Elle, **Books to Look Out for in 2019**

“Moving, vivid, confronting and bold, What Red Was is an urgent story told beautifully”

Dolly Alderton

“An incredibly nuanced exploration of the complexities of sexual violence, WHAT RED WAS heralds the arrival of a major new literary talent. This is an important book.”

Louise O'Neill, author of ASKING FOR IT and ALMOST LOVE

“Bringing together themes of survival, agency, complicity, self-denial and, ultimately, courage, this assured book is one of the most powerful debuts you’ll ever read.”


“WHAT RED WAS is a gripping novel that shines an unflinching light on trauma and its prismatic impact. A deeply necessary book, elegant and assured even as it burns at the centre with cool, clear-eyed rage.”

Sophie Mackintosh, author of THE WATER CURE

“[A] conversation-starting novel about love, violence and toxicity from [a] subversive new voice”

Evening Standard

“A confident and provocative debut”

John Boyne, The Times

“One of the best books I've ever read about female rage and transgression, and the boundaries of both family and art, shot through with gorgeous prose, wrapped in a thrilling plot. WHAT RED WAS is at once incredibly timely and one for the ages. An assured and stealthily brilliant debut that people will be talking about for a long time”

Lisa Gabriele, author of THE WINTERS

“Rosie Price has a dazzling gift for rendering the mechanisms of power and privilege viscerally real--whether that power is as concrete as a hand over a face, or more amorphous, subtle, and difficult to name. With its penetrating insight into the texture of trauma and its enthralling prose, this is a book that succeeds in prying open our cultural moment and laying it bare for scrutiny”

Alexandra Kleeman, author of YOU TOO CAN HAVE A BODY LIKE MINE

“Price never takes the obvious route or goes for an easy resolution. A writer to watch”

Sarra Manning, Red

“A subversive and sophisticated debut”


“A powerful read”

Nina Pottell, Prima

“A provocative read… Brave and hard-hitting”

Charlotte Heathcote, Sunday Express

“A brave and hard hitting read”

Psychologies, *Book of the Month*

“This exceptional debut is not for the faint-hearted… An honest account of an escalating situation and a woman’s bravery in speaking out”


“As a meditation the trauma of rape, Price’s debut is compelling and thought-provoking… the darker the narrative grows, the more brightly Price’s prose glimmers”

Hephzibah Anderson, Mail on Sunday

“What Red Was introduces an exciting new voice to fiction… 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”

Hannah Beckerman, Observer

“This debut is incredibly wrought, smartly written and very, very timely… powerful”

UK Press Syndication


Patricia Nicol, Sunday Times

“Alcoholism, strained friendship and trauma, as well as the power of storytelling, are all sharply expressed”

Ella Walker

“Feel the sharp edge of Price’s prose… capturing the horrendously common nature of rape…is Price’s greatest accomplishment”

Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, Guardian

“A scotching and original read”

Sharmaine Lovegrove, Sunday Times

“An exceptionally accomplished debut novel with strongly drawn characters. It is nuanced, true to life and it will make you burn with rage. Price has not shied away from tackling challenging material here: consent, sexual assault, substance abuse, self-harm and depression are just some of the topics that she deftly examines”


“Unputdownable... A powerful and haunting tale of friendship, privilege and abuse”


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