The Red Word by Sarah Henstra

The Red Word

A smart, dark, and take-no-prisoners look at rape culture and the extremes to which ideology can go, The Red Word is a campus novel like no other. As her sophomore year begins, Karen enters into the back-to-school revelry--particularly at a fraternity called GBC. When she wakes up one morning on the lawn of Raghurst, a house of radical feminists, she gets a crash course in the state of feminist activism on campus. GBC is notorious, she learns, ni...

Details The Red Word

TitleThe Red Word
Release DateMar 13th, 2018
PublisherGrove Press, Black Cat
GenreFiction, Literary Fiction, Feminism

Reviews The Red Word

  • Navidad Thelamour
    O sing of the American student body, glorious and young. We are the future!...Everyone on a university campus is equally young. We are all the same social class…We all wear the same clothes and listen to the same music…We are all giddy and hyperventilating in the superoxygenated atmosphere of attention and information and privilege and power. We all thought we were different but we weren’t. We all thought we were resisting something but we ...
  • Robin
    I knew this wasn't a book that I was going to enjoy. I knew that going in, by reading the publisher's description. Just seeing the words "rape culture", I knew heavy, uncomfortable, stuff lay ahead of me.The story is Karen's. She's looking back to the 1990's, when she was a Canadian exchange student at an American university, straddling two worlds: being the girlfriend of a frat boy at Gamma Beta Chi (aka "Gang Bang Central"), and the roommate of...
  • Dannii Elle
    I have closed my year by reading what ended up being one of my favourites!The synopsis cites this a 'campus novel', which it is, that takes a look at rape culture, which it does. The reality of this book, however, is something that no brief synopsis or review of mine could ever accurately portray, so vast is the scope of the topics discoursed.This is a complicated and twisty novel in all the best ways. The complex and intellectual narrative often...
  • Roman Clodia
    Gender politics, sexualised violence, the institutionalised nature of misogyny are all hot topics in fiction, but this is one of the most complex and complicated (in a good way) treatments of these fraught questions that I've read. Set in a mid-1990s Ivy League university, this explores what happens when Karen starts dating a boy belonging to one of the most notorious fraternities on campus, renowned for their inbred sexism while, at the same tim...
  • Subashini
    This is a difficult book to review and I started out not knowing where I stand and what star rating to give it, but the more I think about it the more of a bad taste it leaves in my mouth. It’s hard to shake off what I think are some unconscious messages in the novel that seems to want to make excuses for golden boys who belong in fraternities and demonise feminists for being “extremists”. First, in tems of style and construction, this book...
  • Chris Via
    Sarah Henstra, despite most marketing blurbs I've read, is not merely a fresh young voice graduating from her YA novel Mad Miss Mimic  (2015) to her debut adult novel The Red Word; she is a PhD-holding professor and graduate practicum director at Toronto's Ryerson University. Her specialization is 20th-century British literature, upon which she has various scholarly publications. She is a board member of the Canadian Creative Writers and Writ...
  • Aoife
    I received a free digital copy of this book from the publishers/author via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.TW Graphic sex, assault, excessive drink and drugs, suicide attempts, violence towards women.A powerful book focusing on a college student’s foray into feminism, women studies, college campus rape culture and the dangerous world of fraternities, and violence against women.This is a heavy but powerful, important read that only ma...
  • Alexa
    SOO GOOD. New favourite!I discovered this book a few months before it's release date and I was already hooked by the topics it said to cover. So, once I started reading The Red Word I thought, "wow, this is going to be dense" but once invested in the characters and the storyline it isn't dense at all, it's smart, well-written, complex and an intriguing book...Full Review:*A copy of this book was provided to me by ECW Press*
  • Andrea
    Thanks to Grove Atlantic/NetGalley for the ARC.The Red Word is a campus thriller which takes place at an elite school in the 1990s. The campus sections are interspersed with the present-day experiences of the narrator, Karen.Karen is a Canadian student who falls in with two hugely different groups of students at the same time. She lives in a feminist collective named Raghurst, the inhabitants of which are largely devotees of a women's studies pro...
  • Dearna (Words of the Roses)
    Full review:“This is the trouble with myth. Each of us scoops out our own rotten core and spits it out on stage. We stand around the heap of smoking corpses and declare it fate.”Wow, I’m not sure what I was excepting from this book but it ended up being way more than I could ever imagine. It was a heavy read full of deep, dark topics but at the same time, I flew through it. This is one I’ll be thin...
  • Michelle Sibley
    This book explores rape culture, feminism, Helen of Troy and Greek mythology and it’s extremely interesting. This would be a good book for a book club discussion as there’s so many parts to this story and great discussion points. Contains a few difficult and disturbing scenes so be warned. But a good read, written very well and nicely researched.
  • Tess
    An absolutely beautiful and stirring novel that I found hard to put down. Rarely does a book take feminism and rape culture so head on, turning it upside down, and taking you on a journey along the way. Karen, the narrator, is a fabulous character, one who will stay with me. Her point of view, the way she was both an outsider and an insider, and how she drove the story, was fascinating. I loved all the rich characters, and following a year in the...
  • Crystal Long
    I tried so very hard to like this book! From the description I really thought it would be interesting. However, the obtuseness of the plot/storyline quickly became monotonous. I didn't finish it. Thank you Netgalley and Grove Press for the opportunity to read this ARC.
  • miss.mesmerized mesmerized
    For a conference, Karen returns to the town she attended college many years before. It is not a pleasant return since the place is connected to sad memories. Going back there brings it all again to her mind. Her roommates, nice girls at first, whose plan got completely wrong. Her then boy-friend and his fraternity GBC who always treated her nicely but also had another, darker side. The teacher they all admired in their gender studies classes. And...
  • Kristina Reads - Books. Blogs. Memes.
    3.5 starsTrigger warnings for graphic sexual assault, rape, sui, substance use/abuseAre the right people suffering for your actions?Four days removed from this book and I’m still not sure how to review it. I’m not even totally sure what star rating to give it. This is an emotionally wracking novel, with high stakes for all involved, and topples the ever-popular infamous issue of rape and sexual assault on college campuses, particularly at par...
  • Ellen
    This is my honest review, in exchange for the copy of this book provided by ECW Press.I am not university educated myself, but having worked and spent much time in close proximity to a major Canadian university, I’ve witnessed first hand some of the (more benign) antics of 19 year olds living away from home for the first time in their young lives (living room furniture moved to front lawn, toilet papered trees, for example). And so, I found rea...
  • Mary
    The Red Word is an introspective, and terrifying look at rape (the Red Word) on a college campus.  The protagonist, Karen, enters a world of feminists and frat boys, college ideals against sober reality, and evil that does not always have a counterpart of good.Karen is introduced to her life Raghurst, a shared house with 4 other roommates, each with specific ideals that are foreign to Karen, by being asked if she was raped the night before. Her...
  • Kayo
    Wanted to like this book. So wordy that it wasn't likable. Too much! Thank you to Grove Atlantic, Netgalley and author for the chance to read book.While I got the book for free, it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.
  • Kate
    Ugh. Surprisingly, I managed to finish this, and most of it in less than one night (I was only on page 66 this morning) because my Netgalley ARC expires today so I had to.I wasn't enjoying it, so I told myself I would read until page 100, and then quit if I still hated it. It was just vaguely interesting enough for me to want to know what happens, so I kept going, and quickly read through it. I'm giving it 2 stars because I did manage to finish i...
  • Jule
    This semester, I had to sit through a terribly difficult seminar full of rude, disruptive, short fused and hot tempered students from the gender studies department who, quite frankly, had no place in my literature seminar. While I agree with their general ideas, they were often taking things to far, and I could not at all get behind their attitude and behavior in class. My anxiety was having a field trip with them every week. Well, the semester e...
  • Isaiah
    I got an ARC in return for an honest review on NetGalley.I almost gave up on the very first page. The first paragraph was so pretentious that I was ready to put the book down. I have no idea why I kept going, I was so turned off the story that quickly I should have assumed that I would have hated the whole book. I kept reading. I read and read and read. I ended up loving the book. The author has great writing skill and can keep a story going, wit...
  • Tiffany
    The Red Word is a look at rape (the red word) culture but not just on college campuses as the blurbs would suggest. The novel is complex, thought-provoking, and timely. Henstra interweaves a story where Karen, the main character, is looking back at her sophomore year of college in the mid-90s at some unnamed ivy league institution with classic mythological themes and Karen's present-day life. Henstra has an engaging way with words that kept me fr...
  • Kaleena ★ Reader Voracious
    I received an advanced reader copy from NetGalley and the publisher, Grove Press, in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.This is one of the most nuanced and beautifully complex novels tackling gender politics that I have read. Artfully written, I felt like I was an unseen spectator of the events that unfolded as Karen begins to unpack layers of institutionalized sexism and misogyny. The novel navigates between the present day and fifteen y...
  • Matt Jones
    I really wanted to love this book, and I did like a lot about it! It reads almost as a kind of Field Guide to Feminism in the sense that there is a lot of feminist theory blended into the narrative, and I think this is one of the things the book does well: it asks you to consider the utility of theory in the real world. Or at least the book problematizes the relationship between the academic discourse of theory and the lived experiences of women....
  • Emi Bevacqua
    I didn't take any Women's Studies courses in college, and feel that reading this book has filled in a bit of that gap for me. Main character Karen is an impressionable young college student, who moves into a house full of upperclasswomen who seem to collectively be in charge of Feminism on campus, and joins in their idolization of a particular women's studies professor. At the same time, Karen also has a major crush on Bruce Comfort, the BMOC at ...
  • Liz
    1970-01-01 starts out at an ivy league college as innocent as many of her classmates who have gone before her. But Karen gets caught up with a group of feminist students who let her move into their off-campus house called Raghurst. Without question, the new living experience changes Karen's life. Combined with a course in Dr. Esterhazy's "Women and Myth," course and a boyfriend at a notorious frat house, GBC (Gang ...
  • Maria Zuppardi
    3.5. Read my full review on ReadingMaria.I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review via ECW.Going into this novel, I had to brace myself, because I knew I was in for graphic imagery on a subject that's so hard to deal with. Sarah definitely approached rape in an honest, yet respectful way.  What I liked about this book was that it's about such a hard topic, but you are left intrigued by it because we can all r...
  • Jessica Gordon
    I kind of loved this novel, which is a cross between The Secret History and The Marriage Plot. Not only does it explore and expose the rape culture prevalent in some college campuses, but it uses mythology to illumines the long history of patriarchy and oppression that women have experienced.While contrasting GBC (a frat nicknamed Gang Bang Central) against Raghurst (home of a group of radical feminist students hoping to change the culture of opp...
    Content warning for sexual violence and rape, including people being drugged at a fraternity party...and not the way you would expect.I wavered on 4 or 5 stars, and decided on 5 because I could not put the book down. I hated to stop reading to go to sleep or to work, as it was that engrossing of a novel. It will stay on my mind for a long time.The novel is not told in linear fashion. Usually that's a problem for me, but it worked this time with t...