Published by Hogarth Press
Publication date: May 30th 2017
Two weeks ago I wrote about The Heirs, a novel that surprised me by going well beyond its blurb to become a 5-star read. I had a similar surprise with White Fur by Jardine Libaire except it’s not the blurb that is surpassed, it’s the beginning of the novel itself—which is a much greater feat. Elise is twenty-years-old and has seen way more of the worst of the world than any young girl should so when the handsome Jamey moves next door she’s determined to use him as a way up and out of her life. This sounds like one of the oldest and most tired tropes: using her feminine wiles poor, pretty female ensnares guileless, lonely rich male. Or, maybe, helpless wayward damaged young woman who can only be saved by older richer white man—ala Pretty Woman.
Either way, by a third of the way through I felt like White Fur was unlikely to be more than quick reading with few surprises. Jamey is intoxicated by Elise’s sexuality and rough edges and she is reveling in a life of ease almost unfathomable to her. Except that Libaire begins to imbue Elise and Jamey with a self-awareness that provides nuance beyond any trope. For Jamey, it is the knowledge, early on, that his family is so wealthy he will never be denied anything, but also, he will never be loved for himself. In Elise, the awareness is the opposite: she’s never been given anything, including love.
This depth shifts the novel from stereotype to an interesting take on stereotypes. Libaire plays with the plot as well and, barring a twist I found unnecessary and over-the-top, White Fur becomes fresh and ingenious in its ability to flip the script on a trope. That she accomplishes this using prose that is beautifully evocative
…you just lie there is folds of white taffy sheets, your mind a sea of honey.
means that what felt one-note in the beginning opens up into a poignant, raw novel about the unexplainable ways of the human heart.
Jamey adores the shooting stars of her mind, the powdery galaxy of her thoughts. Her intelligence isn’t organized the same way his is. She never finished more than a few pages of a book, but loves to talk about what she read. She thinks in wild gardens…