Mona Awad

Simon & Schuster Ltd
United Kingdom
4 October 2023


Mona Awad

From the critically acclaimed author of Bunny comes a horror-tinted, gothic fairy tale about a lonely dress shop clerk whose mother’s unexpected death sends her down a treacherous path in pursuit of youth and beauty. Can she escape her mother’s fate — and find a connection that is more than skin deep?

For as long as she can remember, Belle has been insidiously obsessed with her skin and skincare videos. When her estranged mother Noelle mysteriously dies, Belle finds herself back in Southern California, dealing with her mother’s considerable debts and grappling with lingering questions about her death. The stakes escalate when a strange woman in red appears at the funeral, offering a tantalizing clue about her mother’s demise, followed by a cryptic video about a transformative spa experience. With the help of a pair of red shoes, Belle is lured into the barbed embrace of La Maison de Méduse, the same lavish, culty spa her mother to which her mother was devoted. There, Belle discovers the frightening secret behind her (and her mother’s) obsession with the mirror—and the great shimmering depths (and demons) that lurk on the other side of the glass.

Snow White meets Eyes Wide Shut in this surreal descent into the dark side of beauty, envy, grief, and the complicated love between mothers and daughters. With black humor and seductive horror, Rouge explores the cult-like nature of the beauty industry—as well as the danger of internalizing its pitiless gaze. Brimming with California sunshine and blood-red rose petals, Rouge holds up a warped mirror to our relationship with mortality, our collective fixation with the surface, and the wondrous, deep longing that might lie beneath.


A modern fairytale meets cult meets critique of our obsession with looking young forever. Mona Awad’s latest novel follows skincare-obsessed Mirabelle as she returns to California for her mother’s funeral, where she must face the (literal) demons of her past and the cultish members of Rouge – an exclusive skincare club her mother nonsensically raved about before she plummeted to her death.

Awad has an uncanny ability to reference beloved fairytales without slipping into clichés. This tale reads like a modern-day Snow White, heavily critiquing the beauty standards that demand us (especially women) to be young and beautiful forever. The book slides from the past to the present without faltering, creating an unpredictable yet seamless narrative that I gorged in two days. Motifs of skin, youth, and power act as a backdrop for more critical discussions of how racism is perpetrated by the beauty industry – a theme that is further emphasised by Mirabelle’s strained relationship with her mother, Noelle.

This leads to another of Awad’s strengths. Her ability to contrast Mirabelle and Noelle while also highlighting their shared vanity and ruthlessness makes their relationship so visceral, you can only hope to read faster to try and unpack the difficulties (and demons) of their pasts. This tense mother-daughter relationship is further brought to life through Awad’s gothic, often gruesome, imagery which is also tinged with beauty (much like the very industry she critiques).

Though the first half of the novel risks slipping into the judgemental, almost bored tone of the protagonist in Awad’s novel Bunny, the second half moves into a skilled, daydream-like voice that made me genuinely worry for Mirabelle’s sanity. Demonic, twisted, and sprinkled with dark humour, this novel is a must-have for fans of Bunny or Chelsea Summers’ A Certain Hunger, or for those who just want a sprinkle of blood in their rouge.

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