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Publisher's Summary

The Sunday Times best seller.

Edie is just trying to survive. She’s messing up in her dead-end admin job in her all-white office, she is sleeping with all the wrong men and she has failed at the only thing that meant anything to her: painting. 

No one seems to care that she doesn’t really know what she’s doing with her life beyond looking for her next hook-up. And then she meets Eric, a white, middle-aged archivist with a suburban family, including a wife who has sort-of-agreed to an open marriage and an adopted black daughter who doesn’t have a single person in her life who can show her how to do her hair. 

As if navigating the constantly shifting landscape of sexual and racial politics as a young black woman wasn’t already hard enough, with nowhere else left to go, Edie finds herself falling head-first into Eric’s home and family.

Razor sharp, provocatively unstoppable and surprisingly tender, Luster by Raven Leilani is a painfully funny debut about what it means to be young now.

©2020 Raven Leilani (P)2021 Macmillan Publishers International Ltd

Critic Reviews

"A taut, sharp, funny book about being young now. It’s brutal - and brilliant." (Zadie Smith, author of Swing Time)

"Remarkable, the most delicious novel I’ve read." (Candice Carty-Williams, author of Queenie)

"Ridiculously good [...] I will follow this author anywhere she wants to take me." (Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties)

What listeners say about Luster

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  • papapownall
  • 31-01-21

Rampant and pithy

This debut novel by Raven Leilani has been heavily hyped. It tells the story of a young black women called Edie who loves disco music and enters a strange relationship with an older married white man, with the permission of his wife. At times darkly comedic and at times excruciatingly cringeworthy, this is full on stuff with no holding back. Subjects such as race and class are tackled head on, but the strength of this story is the insight it gives into the complex lives of the characters who are believable and compelling. It is rampant and pithy stuff and I loved it.

3 people found this helpful

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  • jojo
  • 07-02-21

A gutting staggering debut.

Leilani's perceptive acuity and linguistic exactitude dissects as she creates, each scene rich with revelation.

2 people found this helpful

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  • K. J. Noyes
  • 30-01-21

Unsettling, convincing, shocking

Hard to pin down, a very modernistic-feeling tale.

Edie. Office worker. Twenty-three. No qualms about sleeping with men, pandering to their whims, searching for something that clicks. With dreams of focusing on her art.

This is her story, a relatively brief account of the months after she meets a man twice her age, married but openly so. We see a very honest Edie describe and live through the early stages of getting to know Eric, before she unexpectedly becomes more entangled with his family.

Leilani gives us a slightly dark peek at the contemporary world of young women, single and unafraid, open to new experiences and searching for that direction that offers them future happiness. And an escape from boredom and mundanity.

The characters aren't wholly likeable, I found it difficult to watch Edie acquiescing to the demands of various men, not exactly submissively but not from a position of power either.

Such an unusual spin on the theme of affairs, of entanglements and wives and marriages. It's a story set in our time, of our time. Eric pales in comparison to his wife as a character of interest - how she interacts with Edie is much more interesting in my opinion.

This isn't a long book, it's a fairly slow story where a lot is thought and explored. It might make readers uncomfortable but it did feel like a hidden story from the world we inhabit that is probably going on under our noses. Is this really what life for the young is?

I don't know how I feel about that. Is it a freer life? A more joyless one?

It makes a wonderful audiobook, the intense closeness of some of the scenes narrated for us by Edie as we listen along, the first person immediacy only increasing some of the dark tension. It is an uncomplicated Audible choice, one with a straight structure that won't confuse.

This will repeat on you, Edie and her life, her choices, the strange situation she finds herself in. One for discussion and consideration.

With thanks to Nudge Books for providing a sample Audible copy.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Beetle
  • 25-02-21

Awful

I’ve never taken this long to finish a book before. It’s one of the worst novels I’ve ever read. A real poor me book. Nauseatingly self pitying and sooooo bloody boring.

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  • Robert Buchan
  • 11-02-21

Millennial moan

What a waste of PR build up. Just a whining and completely unlovable and irredeemable character. Millenial, woke, pretentious virtual signalling of the worst kind.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 03-02-21

truly outstanding

the way raven uses words is so captivating you are taken on a beautiful journey. having now finished the book I feel empty!

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  • MJH
  • 28-01-21

Interesting little snapshot of a life

I enjoyed this book. It was different. I liked the way it didn't turn out the way I might have expected. Good to read a new style of writing.

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  • E. A. Watson
  • 27-01-21

So freaking gd

This novel is unbelievably fine. If you described the situation it would sound kinky or implausible, but it is neither. It’s got to win prizes, if this was yet a world of prize juries that can value the idea of a story of a love quadrant centred on a messy black girl’s self-clarification through her affair with a weak and fading white man who conserves things, taken over gradually by her involvement with his mechano-morph medic wife and their dissatisfied adopted black daughter. She is surprisingly compliant to misuse and also kicks back in unexpected ways but never fools herself, and so is able to move from being a shocking character in an office anecdote to literally shaping the people in her world.

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  • Anthony Collins
  • 25-01-21

wonderful young black female voice

I could be picky about some plot events, but why bother, when the writing is just so honest and witty and beautiful. I had a couple of laught out loud moments, but many more wow moments at the brilliant observations and revelations. Young female writers are really kicking arse these days.

5 people found this helpful

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  • miss
  • 30-01-21

Wonderful

I loved everything about this book. The author’s use of language was casual, but simultaneously delicious. The narration was so easy to listen to. Terrific!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Giulia
  • 02-02-21

Delicious

Some inconsistencies with audio but such a gorgeously written story. Despite unlikable protagonist, I could not get enough.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 31-01-21

loved this book and performance

Wow! This story will stay with me for a long time. Beautiful story and narration. I couldn't put it down. It brought up a lot of emotion.