Harvill Secker has won debut novelist Rosie Price’s literary novel, What Red Was, in an "intense" five-way auction.
Kate Harvey, deputy publishing director at Harvill Secker, acquired UK and Commonwealth (excluding Canada) rights to the "conversation-starting" novel from Jane Finigan at Lutyens & Rubinstein and will publish in May 2019.
In the book, Price, 25, examines friendship, memory, sexual violence and class through her story of Kate Quaile and her involvement with the gilded Rippon family.
The blurb for the book reads: "Kate and Max meet at university. Their friendship is sudden and uncomplicated and his family adopt her into a world of generous privilege (which she observes with distinctly mordant wit). But at a summer party in London, Kate is the victim of a sexual assault whose perpetrator is too close for her to name."
Harvey said while the set up may be familiar to readers, Price's take on the trope was "subervisve and remarkable".
"Rosie has startling emotional intelligence and her prose is sophisticated, incisive and warm. One of her novel’s many striking qualities is in the tension between raw courage and lucid classicism. The set up – a charming family, an outsider – will be familiar to any avid reader, but what Rosie does with it is subversive and remarkable," said Harvey.
"It spoke to us all at Harvill Secker, to both head and heart, and we were with Kate Quaile on every step of her journey. I expect this novel to be a conversation-starter both in terms of its themes and its style, and am confident that Rosie has a serious writing career ahead. I couldn’t be more eager to publish What Red Was."
Price, from Gloucestershire, read English at Cambridge and has worked as an assistant at a literary agency which she left to focus on her own writing. She said: "I am delighted to be joining Harvill Secker’s wonderful list – Kate’s reaction to the book, and that of Vintage as a whole, has been incredible, and I am beyond thrilled to have Vintage as my publisher."
What Red Was will publish on 2nd May 2019 in hardback, e-book and audio formats. Dutch rights have already been pre-empted by Prometheus.