book review: White Fur by Jardine Libaire


WHITE FUR by Jardine Libaire
US pub date: May 30, 2017
Publisher: Hogarth Press
My review on Goodreads

Alright guys, it looks like I’m gonna be in the minority with this one. This is Fates and Furies all over again.

White Fur was a long, painful slog for me. I thought this book was overwritten and vapid; the characters were loathsome and one-dimensional; and perhaps most frustratingly, there was a distinct lack of subtlety to a narrative which was anemic to begin with. Filthy rich Jamey falls in love with Elise from the wrong side of the tracks, and… they have a lot of sex. That’s it. That’s the book. If you’re expecting a nuanced examination of class differences, keep looking, because there’s none of that here.

Take this passage, where Elise is meeting Jamey’s family:

Elise should be a Dartmouth lacrosse star whose granddad went to Groton with Bats, and she should be bronzed from the Vineyard, lips opaquely shiny from Chapstick. So happy to meet you, Mr. Hyde!

But no! Jamey is pushing forward the real Elise, in couture dress, shins bruised from basketball, cornrows latticing her lean head, feet wedged into slingbacks.

Getting hit by a freight train whose sides are painted with the words THEY COME FROM DIFFERENT BACKGROUNDS may have been more subtle, but okay. And this wouldn’t be quite so bad if it weren’t literally the entire book. There is absolutely no depth here. Jamey is rich and handsome and discontent and restrained, and Elise is poor and crass and loud and impulsive. Jardine Libaire leaves all her cards on the table by the end of the second chapter. There is nothing left to discover about these characters when every facet of their practically non-existent personalities has been spelled out from the very first page.

There’s something undeniably voyeuristic about the way this story is spun. This book isn’t romantic. It’s gritty, dirty, raw. It’s about the ugly sides of relationships, about jealousy and obsession. But that wasn’t the problem, because in theory that all sounds great to me. I love books that take a conventional premise and then spin the narrative in a different direction. It’s Romeo and Juliet but instead of love it’s passion, lust, obsession? Cool. Sounds fun.

But it wasn’t. I just didn’t care. Why was I suffering through the uncomfortable experience of acting as a voyeur into the lives of these two characters who bored me to tears? The answer is because I don’t DNF books. That’s it. That’s the only thing that kept me going. There was absolutely no intrigue, and absolutely no payoff for sticking with it as long as I did.

I thought the prose was terrible. It was trying so hard to come across as devil-may-care that I felt an acute sense of secondhand embarrassment for how much it did care. Each sentence felt artificially manufactured with MFA-degree precision (not that there’s anything wrong with getting an MFA in creative writing, but sometimes it just shows; what should come across as effortless becomes painfully obtrusive on every page.) What we’re left with isn’t artistic or poignant or emotional or insightful, it’s mostly just insipid.

(Vaguely NSFW text ahead, this quote is taken from a sex scene.)

Jamey is starting to operate in a trance, biting his lip. He’s a mystical vision of an orangutan in a nature show. He actually has the thought: I’m a monkey, and that’s okay. He’s got a dumb look on his face and that’s okay. For a minute, an hour later, right before he comes again, with two tongues licking him like kittens, he understands everything.

I’m sorry, but what is the point? Is this supposed to be profound? Sexy? Shocking? It’s not any of those things. It’s awkward. It’s dumb. It’s embarrassing. I could not stop cringing the entire time I was reading this.

But in an effort of not ending on a terribly negative note: none of my Goodreads friends who have read this have given it less than 4 stars. This is clearly a matter of personal taste, so if you think this sounds like the sort of thing you’ll like, give it a try! And I’m sorry for being so negative, but this is one of those books which managed to tick every item on a checklist I didn’t even know I had of things I hate in fiction. Sorry White Fur, we were like oil and water from the beginning.

Thank you Netgalley and Penguin First to Read for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review. Quotes are taken from an ARC copy and may be edited before publication.

20 thoughts on “book review: White Fur by Jardine Libaire

  1. Oh nooo those excerpts are so cringy. Even if a book tells a good story, poor writing can completely destroy it. But obviously it sounds like this book did not tell a good story, and I can totally sympathize with not being able to DNF it. Even if a book is torture, it’s rare that I DNF a book (I also need my Netgalley percentage always to be at 100% lol). Also, while it’s so painful to read a 1 star book, I do love reading 1 star reviews. And writing them can be therapeutic.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Agreed!!! And I’m sure some people think this is good writing, but I just can’t deal with overwritten prose like this.

      Omg, I think the Netgalley gods hate me because I’ll always go weeks without getting anything new and then I’ll get like…. 4 books in the span of two days so my percentage will go from 100% to 80% overnight. I’ve got 2 to go before I’m back to 100%.

      Writing negative reviews is SO cathartic. I secretly love it tbh. There is nothing more gratifying. (And it comes a lot easier than writing positive reviews for me?! Whenever I love a book I struggle so much to put the reason why into words, but negative reviews are so easy!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Netgalley is great, but it is also my worst enemy, lol. My one wish for that site is that they had a preview of the first few pages or so of the book, because I can usually tell from the first few sentences of a book if the writing style with agree with me or not. But I understand why Netgalley doesn’t do that, so it’s fair. But I have requested books that sound amazing, but then once I download them I can quickly tell that it’s going to be terrible, and I’m stuck with it because I can’t let my percentage lower. And I do feel bad sometimes giving a debut author a bad review. BUT it’s the chance we take, and it’s the chance an author takes by putting their books on there. It’s made me very picky about what I request, though.

        Negative reviews are SO much easier for me to write. When I read a book I love, I want my review to do it justice, which can be hard sometimes to express in words why a book was so great! And other times I just feel like I’m writing “I loved this book” over and over in different ways. But with negative reviews I feel like I’m finally releasing a mental list of things that irritated me while I was reading a book and it just comes so easily. Reading a terrible book is torturous, but writing about it is SO MUCH FUN. And then I love going through goodreads and finding other reviews that share my opinion, lol.

        Liked by 3 people

      • Omg I know, I am addicted to Netgalley and it is such a problem. I have so many books on my TBR already and then I go and request all these random books I haven’t even heard of just because they sound cool. I’m so weak. And ahhh I am completely the same, I literally knew 5% into White Fur that I was going to hate it. I wish Netgalley had a ‘never mind’ option – like you can give the book back if you start it and hate it. Obviously it would be impossible to monitor a system like that lol, but I can dream!!! So many times I’ve started a Netgalley book and after the first page just gone ‘oh god what have I Done.’

        Hahaha I do the same thing, I was just going through and liking a bunch of negative reviews of this book, lol! It is so gratifying to see other people share your opinion, especially when it’s an unpopular one. And I’m the same – I really struggle to put into words what I love about certain books and want to end up just yelling ‘READ THIS!’ over and over, but with negative reviews the words just flow so much easier! I guess this is our compensation for having suffered through a terrible book. I’ll always have a fondness in my heart for reading and writing negative reviews.

        Liked by 1 person

    • (Somehow I missed seeing this comment before now.) I’m so glad I’m not alone here, Martie! Most of my Goodreads friends who’ve read it have given it a really high rating, and I’m sitting here like ‘what the heck am I missing???’ One of my worst reads in a while for sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. LOL at the excerpts! Who enjoys prose like that???

    I sometimes mentally categorize books ones written by people who love words more than stories, and this sounds like a great example.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right??? It was hard to narrow it down, too, for this review. I kept highlighting passages in my Kindle and just writing “terrible.”

      I love nice writing as much as the next person, but to me there is such a distinction between solid prose that compliments a story, and purple prose like this that becomes the focus of the story. I felt that way about Fates and Furies and The Girls, both of which were really light on plot and really heavy on awkward out of place metaphors on every page. I don’t know how people can stand prose like this either!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Exactly! When the prose becomes an exercise in “Look how clever I am with words!”, I start to lose interest. I think a lot of writers have good ideas but can’t flesh them out, so they resort to writing the most “artful” prose they can conceive instead. (Sometimes under heavy expectations like The Girls, which I couldn’t stand. Not even the prospect of eagerly sharpening my poisoned pen for a scathing review got me more than 40 pages into that one.)

        And I couldn’t read the “I’m a monkey, and that’s okay” line without thinking of the scene in Zoolander where a photo shoot director is telling Ben Stiller “You’re a monkey… Dance, monkey!” ( 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Exactly! I think beautiful prose is something that happens naturally when the writer is intelligent enough, but then you get some authors who try to artificially manufacture a bunch of nonsense and sell it as beautiful or profound or provocative, and I understand that that appeals to a certain reader, but personally I just can’t stand it. Oh and I’m glad you also hated The Girls, the prospect of writing a scathing review is the only thing that carried me through to the end of that one! White Fur was honestly even worse though, if you can believe it. Even though I hated Emma Cline’s prose, I still sort of felt like ‘well, something’s bound to happen eventually in this book, right?’ and that mild curiosity was able to sustain me. Anemic as that ‘intrigue’ was, it was still stronger than anything that White Fur had to offer.

        LOL, I can’t believe I didn’t think of that iconic moment in cinema while I was reading that scene! White Fur had all of the profundity of Zoolander and none of the humor.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Those are always the authors who want to tell instead of showing–they have to describe every detail in prose. Then it seems to become filler for me and I find that I simply skim over it, being annoyed at the author for making me wade through drivel that shows only their command of the thesaurus…

        Yeah, there’s nothing like the prospect of hate-reading a book to write a review to drive me on! Especially when it’s a popularly-acclaimed book like The Girls. I had fallen asleep three nights in a row while reading it, then I read a plot summary to see if it was worth sticking with. That convinced me to move on to bigger and better things!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Very true! And it’s a hard thing to measure, but you also get those books where the author’s using a huge vocabulary, but it comes across as much more natural, and you can just sort of tell that a thesaurus wasn’t involved in the process. I’m thinking of Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach as an example – really ‘pretentious’ prose, but the pretentiousness is almost the point, like it’s being purposefully over-indulgent to suit the character, so I found myself thinking it was rather clever. Because that’s the other thing – whether it’s first or third person narration, if your thesaurus-prose is totally incompatible with your main character(s), it really sticks out as awkward and unnatural, and I think that was the case both here and with The Girls.

        The other thing The Girls had going for it was how short it was! Luckily I don’t think I’ve ever read a purple prose book over 350 pages, but if I ever encounter one, that is gonna majorly test my ‘never DNF’ resolve.


  3. I’m a Netgalley newbie (literally reading my first book). I saw this one on there and passed on it, but now it’s a Book of the Month selection for June, so I thought maybe I’d give it a try? Glad I saw this first! Friends don’t let friends read bad books 🙂 THANKS!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ohhh have fun on Netgalley! It is so addicting once you get started on there.

      I’m so glad I could spare you! I couldn’t believe it when I logged onto BOTM and saw White Fur. I don’t understand why so many people are raving about this book. I realize that my opinion is obviously subjective, and this style of writing and subject matter may appeal to some people… but I just don’t get it. Unless you read those excerpts in my review and think ‘wow that is BEAUTIFUL and PROFOUND’ it is just not worth wasting your time on. I opted for Chemistry from BOTM, I hope it’s good!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. i loved the book it kept my interest. i wondered if they would stick together. as in real life, it had sad ending. It was somewhat unbelievable that such diff people could have a conversation

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you liked it so much. I really wish I had been able to connect with it more, but it just never grabbed me for whatever reason. I guess that’s why they say no two people ever read the same book!


  5. […] 1. White Fur by Jardine Libaire.  And finally, the book that I loathed above all others this year.  White Fur… where do I begin.  White Fur is a sort of gritty and sultry Romeo and Juliet-esque love story about Jamey, who’s rich, and Elise, who’s poor.  Congratulations, you have now read the book.  Because there is nothing else there.  Jamey’s personality is that he is rich.  Elise’s personality is that she is poor.  At some point in this book we’re told that they’re in love with each other, which sort of took me by surprise, because until then, all we’d seen was them having a lot of really badly written sex.  There is no character development in this novel, no nuanced approach to the subject of class differences, no plot (no, seriously, there is no plot), and literally, not a single thing to make slogging through this horrible book worth my time.  The dude also compares himself to an orangutan during a threesome, so, there’s also that.  I want every memory of this book to be scrubbed out of my brain.  Full review HERE. […]


  6. Excellent review! The second excerpt you posted actually made me crack up with how ridiculous it was. I wonder if any of the sex scenes in this book have been put on the a ‘worst sex scene of the year’ list. You did a fantastic job of articulating why this book didn’t work for you and it sounds like I’ll be giving it a hard pass. 😛


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