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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize 2021

Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction 2021

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.

A best book of the year: Guardian, New York Times, New Yorker, Boston Globe, Literary Hub, Vanity Fair, Los Angeles Times, Glamour, Time, Good Housekeeping, InStyle, NPR, O Magazine, Buzzfeed, Electric Literature, Town & Country, Wired, New Statesman, Vox, Shelf Awareness, i-D, BookPage and more.

One of Barack Obama’s Favourite Books of 2020

Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, the PEN/Hemingway Award.

©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)

"A book of pure fineness, exceptional." (Diana Evans, Guardian

"A giddy joy, crafted with mischievous perfection." (Mail on Sunday

What listeners say about Luster

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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.

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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!

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Stunning

I adored this writing, the writer and the story most thoroughly.
It felt like a warm indulgence
Have recommended it over a hundred times

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Delicious

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

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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.

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  • Martin Ladd
  • 05-04-2021

A great listen

The story was often confronting and the protagonist’s life choices questionable, but this is an entertaining book. It deals with big issues in an understated and insightful way. Raven Leilani’s writing is superlative. A writer to look out for. Credit is also due to Ariel Blake for an authentic and captivating performance that never intrudes on the story.

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  • papapownall
  • 31-01-2021

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.

4 people found this helpful

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  • K. J. Kelly
  • 30-01-2021

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.

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  • jojo
  • 07-02-2021

A gutting staggering debut.

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

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 27-08-2021

masterful storytelling. rich and dark and true.

brilliant writing that is well performed by the narrator. listened to the whole thing in 3 days.

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  • Jessica Hen
  • 19-08-2021

Absolutely perfect book

Leilani is the most talented writer alive. The lyricism on every single page is astounding. Listening to this audiobook felt like falling in love.

So many of the reviews for this book featured the bizarre criticism that it's "unrealistic", implying that the characters' choices aren't justified. This is nonsense. It betrays a failure of empathy and imagination around nonmonogamy. Trust me when I say the actions of Edie, Rebecca and Eric are extremely believable and true to life if you have even the slightest bit of experience with open relationships.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • 28-06-2021

This book is hatd to pin down but beautiful.

It tells the story of an unconventional extramarital affair involving three people on the edge in various ways. How children can be messed up by the adults who supposedly care for them. Race, gender and sexuality and age are also important themes. However the best thing about this book are the beautiful prose that drip from the page.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 30-05-2021

loved this !!

I struggle to finish books but finished within a few days, couldn't stop listening. it was so beautifully written (some of the descriptions almost felt pyschadelic ?) & the narration perfectly brought it to life. in awe of raven Leilani & how she mixes humour with melancholy.

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  • mtg101
  • 15-05-2021

More than eye opening

I can't remember how I heard about this book. Probably a podcast. Felt a bit weird initially listening as an old white guy, but it's so much more than the initial premise. Life is complicated. And Comic Con costumes are too!

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  • Madison Watson
  • 05-05-2021

Mostly enjoyable

There are wonderful developments and a strong audiobook overall, however the sound quality varies and there can be some obvious cuts to different recordings.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 25-04-2021

Didn't enjoy it

Perhaps this isn't my type of story but I didn't like this at all. The characters felt messy and unclear with regards to motivation and I could feel the hint of certain themes about bad youthful decisions & race but nothing really engaged with. And I wonder if that was the point? Either way, it was a weird listen & not one of my faves.

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