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, Feminism, Literary Fiction, Cultural, Canada

Reviews The Red Word

  • Navidad Thélamour
    A solid 4 stars!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 s...
  • Robin
    UPDATE: WINNER OF THE 2018 GOVERNOR GENERAL'S LITERARY AWARD FOR FICTION(I'm a little disappointed to learn this... I haven't read enough new Canadian books this year to know what the competition was, but I have to wonder why this was selected as best fiction book of the year.)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, uncom...
  • 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...
  • Krista
    “Don't you think watching the video is another kind of assault?” I'd meant to say “another rape”, but I backed off the word last-minute. “Rape” was a red word, a ravenous word. It was double-edged, the word “rape”. It would automatically make me an accuser and Mike an accused. And it would immediately and forever afterward make it my job to justify myself, to defend myself as the accuser against all manner of arguments. I would so...
  • Jessica Woodbury
    It is my lot in life to be forever chasing THE SECRET HISTORY, a book I read over and over again in college to the point of obsession. It is also a book that people continue to use as a comp title 20 years later because people like me will fall for it. We are inevitably disappointed. But. This is the first time I've read a book and thought, "Wow, this feels like THE SECRET HISTORY." Even better, while it shares some of the same DNA--campus novel,...
  • ❤
    I'm usually always a bit apprehensive about novels set in academia, because I tend to be put off by the ones that are always too academic. I'm not saying I'm not ~intellectual~ enough to appreciate them; I'm just not the sort of reader who picks up a fictional novel and wants to get lectured at about topics I may not even be interested in outside of the novel itself for a good majority of it. It's one of the reasons I recently decided to remove K...
  • Jessica Sullivan
    The Red Word is like The Secret History if it were about campus rape culture in the 1990s. Rooted in Greek mythology, it is itself a modern myth, as it pits the Gamma Beta Chi fraternity and a group of radical feminists against one another in an epic battle.Karen Huls is at the center of it all, attempting to belong simultaneously at Raghurst, the house where she lives with four queer feminists, and at the frat house known as “Gang Bang Central...
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • Kirsty
    I was prompted to read Sarah Henstra's The Red Word after watching an incredibly eyeopening Netflix documentary called 'The Hunting Ground', which focuses upon the scale, and the frankly shocking handling of cases, of sexual assaults on college campuses across the United States. I love campus novels too, and thought that this would be a great choice.At first, the novel was compelling, with some of the dialogue and ideas verging on the profound. T...
  • Haley
    I agree with the over arching themes of the book: rape.on college campuses is a problem and passivity is not going to solve it, nor is victim blaming. however, I feel this book approached the issue in a terribly dangerous way--by making the feminist group the instigators, it flips everything around and gives an opening for people to go "see, it's really just women making this up, men arent doing anything wrong. we're just partying!" and we all ju...
  • 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...
  • Riley Ashby
    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...
  • 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...
  • Nikki Stafford
    This book is fantastic. Everyone is talking about how timely it is, but this book would have been excellent no matter when it came out. Yes, it's a perfect discussion in a #metoo climate, but aside from that, Henstra has crafted a beautifully written, fast-paced story with such dynamic characters that I could barely put it down. Every once in a while she pauses for a two-page discussion between characters, formatted like a Greek chorus talking as...
  • Lisa Buchanan
    Sarah Henstra's debut adult novel is timely in the context of the #MeToo movement, but thanks to its setting in time (mostly 1995) and grounding in Greek mythology, it goes to show the current moment is shedding light on what is a historic pervasiveness of sexual assault, misogyny, patriarchy.While set in the microcosm of a university, the characters contemplate what their experiencing from a macro-level perspective, as well. While the frat party...
  • Linda
    Is it possible to write a novel so steeped in internalized misogyny that it demonizes feminists while it martyrs young men who have given themselves license to rape?Yes, it is possible.Is there any stupider, more gaping plot hole than someone slipping roofies to the would-be rapists as part of a plot to film their sexual assaults? (Guess what roofies and alcohol do to male libido.)No, there is no stupider plot hole than that.And that's where this...
  • Pascale
    Don't really know how to rate/review this... I enjoyed it, but it was a hard book to read, yeah I read the description before picking it up, but I feel like it needs some trigger warnings. I don't really know what mythology had to do with the story, but I feel like re-reading Mary Beard's manifesto might hold the answers (I feel like it has something to do with women only being able to enter the public domain (i.e. speak publicaly) if their death...
  • Kyle
    In my view, this book is essential reading for anyone that has ever considered themselves a feminist.A brilliant cross-section of the most relevant, hot-button ideologies floating around campuses today and told in an almost mythological context of Greek fraternities and sororities. Identity Politics, Campus binarism, consent, rape culture, neo-liberalism, feminism, gender politics, LGBTQ liberation, paganism; all of these ideas get blended into a...
  • Allison
    Lots to think about with this book. Left me cold for the college experience though, it was too removed from my reality. Is there rape culture, of course. Are people both good and "bad", of course. I think the most touching part was the rendering of the women's studies professor who disappoints by being normal--married with step kids, not radical enough. Too little was made of the main character's art too. I wanted to see what happened next.
  • 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.