Sunday, 23 July 2017

Review: 'White Fur' by Jardine Libaire

White FurThere are novels that are predictable, in the sense that you know exactly what you'll get out of them. I think of these novels as 'Hallmark-books'. You can't help but love them because they give you exactly what you need, but you'll also never be truly surprised by them. Then there are also novels that you go into with certain expectations, but that shatter those expectations within a few chapters. White Fur, for me, is the latter type of novel. I thought I knew what I was going to get and I was incredibly wrong. Thanks to Crown Publishing and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Pub. Date: 30/05/2017
Publisher: Crown Publishing; Hogarth

A stunning star-crossed love story set against the glitz and grit of 1980s New York City  
When Elise Perez meets Jamey Hyde on a desolate winter afternoon, fate implodes, and neither of their lives will ever be the same. Although they are next-door neighbors in New Haven, they come from different worlds. Elise grew up in a housing project without a father and didn’t graduate from high school; Jamey is a junior at Yale, heir to a private investment bank fortune and beholden to high family expectations. Nevertheless, the attraction is instant, and what starts out as sexual obsession turns into something greater, stranger, and impossible to ignore. 
The unlikely couple moves to Manhattan in hopes of forging an adult life together, but Jamey’s family intervenes in desperation, and the consequences of staying together are suddenly severe. And when a night out with old friends takes a shocking turn, Jamey and Elise find themselves fighting not just for their love, but also for their lives.  White Fur follows these indelible characters on their wild race through Newport mansions and downtown NYC nightspots, SoHo bars and WASP-establishment yacht clubs, through bedrooms and hospital rooms, as they explore, love, play, and suffer. Jardine Libaire combines the electricity of Less Than Zero with the timeless intensity of Romeo and Juliet in this searing, gorgeously written novel that perfectly captures the ferocity of young love.
White Fur grabbed me by the throat a lot quicker than I expected it to. Initially, upon reading the blurb, I was expecting a relatively straightforward, Romeo and Juliet-esque love story about the rich boy and the girl from the block whose love would defeat the class system with one fell swoop. I thought White Fur might be a breezy read. That is not at all what Jardine Libaire delivers. On the one hand it does deliver that "star-crossed love story", as the blurb so dramatically puts it. It does so explicitly, keeping no secrets from its readers as to the delight and the hardship of love. Writing humorously about humour is notoriously difficult, but I find that writing about love in a way that makes you want to love is equally as challenging. White Fur makes love something almost illicit, the thing we all secretly crave deep down but feel too ashamed to actually ask for. So we grab at it when we can, take in lungfuls and then scurry away again. Reading White Fur brings up a lot of emotions. You'll feel anger at the world, disappointment in people, understanding for their faults, a lust for love and life. White Fur, if you go into it with an open mind, will give you all of this and more.

Class is something I overlooked for a very long time, the ability to do so a privilege that comes from being a middle-class white girl. I thought the main struggles of our time were race and feminism, not realising that this triad of social constructs, race, gender and class, are intrinsically bound together, especially for those who draw the short straw in all three categories. I was aware that I was born lucky, yet the actual knowledge of it only occasionally truly sinks in. Reading White Fur was one of the moments in which it was once again brought to the forefront of my mind. On the one hand the story is relatively simple. Elise is a bi-racial young woman in the 1980s, trying to leave behind her the suffering and drug-abuse that is passed down the generations in the housing projects where she grew up. Jamey is a son of money, heir to an empire he has come to despise. Libaire adeptly shows both of their disillusionment with the world in its own way, drawing both stark contrasts between them as well as showing the connections they share. They attempt to reshape the world as a place in which they can exist and although the obstacles are occasionally overblown, they are also realistic. Libaire manages to describe both Elise and Jamey's, although especially Elise's, struggles in a visceral way that will stick with you.

Sometimes a novel's language can be too flowery. An author will lose themselves in their metaphors and the story sinks away, covered by too much language.  Not every author can write in prose that flows so forcefully. In White Fur, however, it works. Jardine Libaire tells her story chronologically, except for a small teaser of the end at the beginning, but not in a straight-forward manner. Her prose moves in a way rapid rivers do, hurtling on, but also calming down, swirling violently and flowing quietly. Feelings cannot be described literally, I find, and so authors find their way around it. Libaire does it by describing small acts, sights, smells, snapshots of life, the noticing and appreciating of which says much more about her characters than page-long internal monologues. Occasionally the plot takes off in a slightly cliche direction, but Libaire manages these detours relatively well. In a way, White Fur does feel like something of a fairy tale, a dramatic play we hope ends well despite our secret fears. But it's a fairy tale of our life time, with real life horrors and real life dreams.

I give this novel...

4 Universes!

I adored White Fur, it sucked me in almost straightaway and didn't let me go until the last page. Especially Elise's story affected me a lot and after finishing the novel I miss her, in a way. I'll definitely be rereading this one. I'd recommend White Fur to fans of contemporary fiction.

2 comments:

  1. Lovely blog!

    Would you mind checking out my book reviews blog at https://elsbookreviews.blogspot.ca/ and possibly give it a follow? Super excited to read your posts!

    - El

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    1. Thank you so much and I definitely will! Sorry for the delay, have been laserfocused on getting the past few reviews out ;) Thanks for commenting!
      Juli @ A Universe in Words

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