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What Red Was Reader’s Guide

By Rosie Price

What Red Was by Rosie Price


1. This is a novel that encompasses many themes and topics—including friendship, sexual violence, trauma, power, privilege, and consent—but which theme takes center stage for you and why?

2. Did you think the differences in Kate and Max’s backgrounds may have caused a shift in power in their relationship? If so, how?

3. If you believe there was an imbalance of power, how might it have affected Kate’s willingness to tell Max what happened?

4. How might the differences in backgrounds between Kate and Lewis, real or perceived, have influenced what happened?

5. Alcoholism plays a role in both families, but particularly in Max’s. What do you think this might suggest?

6. “If she had been so wrong about what a color could be, then there was little about the world that she had understood correctly.” (p. 111) What does the color red come to symbolize for Kate?

7. “She had only lately begun replaying her account silently to herself as if in court, picking holes out of inconsistencies, bringing accusations upon herself until she could no longer bear to think of it but neither could she not think of it, until she resolved never to tell anybody because the horror of being disbelieved was worse than the horror of bearing it alone.” (p. 132) Why do you think Kate decided to confide in Zara, and later Max and Andrew, about the rape?

8. When Kate confides in Zara about the rape, Zara advises, “Be careful who you speak to about this. You never quite know how people will react, and once you’ve said it, you can’t take it back.” Why do you think Zara gave this advice to Kate? Was it good advice?

9. How did Zara and Kate each deal with their traumas differently?

10. “There were moments when she felt like she wanted to expose Lewis. But it wasn’t because she wanted justice, rather there was a perverse part of her that wanted Max to feel responsible for what had happened to her. For so long he seemed to have been able to detach himself from her suffering . . . and she wanted him to carry the burden with her, but only temporarily, just so he could feel for himself just how heavy it was. . . .” (p. 268) How has Kate’s experience and her processing of it impacted her relationship with Max? What other reasons does she offer for “protecting” Lewis? In what other ways has Kate’s trauma surfaced as she processes her assault in her daily life?

11. Are there other examples of violence—physical or emotional—towards women in Kate’s life?

12. Was Zara right to use elements of Kate’s story in her film without asking permission? Why or why not?

13. “It was not the attack in isolation, but what it did afterwards: the way it shattered perception, distorted senses, disabled the ability to trust and love and be loved, drained the world of color and light.” (p. 274) Do you think it was important for Zara to portray this graphic scene in her film? Did it a serve a purpose to ground Kate’s own experience and perception in reality or did it serve the opposite outcome by forcing her to revisit her trauma?

14. Why do you think the author employed this type of narrative structure in the novel (an omniscient narrator encompassing multiple characters’ points of view)? How did it benefit the story? Did you find value in learning the perspective of a character like Lewis?

15. While Zara’s film has a neat resolution, that doesn’t feel true to Kate’s experience. How do you feel about the way the novel ended for Kate? Where do you imagine Kate to be in one week, one year, ten years from the novel’s end?
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