Cover Image: Luster


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Member Reviews

Not an easy read. 

Edie works in a dead-end job and shares a seedy flat with a girl who is not a friend. She hates her job and has managed to sleep with most of the men employed there. Edie is also the “token black” in an all-white office. Her real passion is her art; however, she’s hit a brick wall with this and hasn’t picked up a paintbrush for ages. 

Edie’s mother had committed suicide and she has no contact with her father. In fact, no one really cares whether she lives or dies. By chance, she meets Eric, a white, middle-aged archivist with a suburban family, including a wife who has sort of agreed to open marriage and an adopted black daughter.

When she’s fired from her job Edie takes the unprecedented step to break into Eric’s home, only to be discovered by his wife, who decides to let her move in. This arrangement is fragile, and Edie knows that it can’t last.

I enjoyed Ariel Blake’s narration of the book. I think that Raven Leilani is a truly outstanding author, but I found the storyline uncompromising and was unable to empathise with any of the characters.


Elite Reviewing Group received a copy of the book to review.
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Incredible and at times uncomfortable. I read it all in one sitting. Some of the scenes were described so viscerally and in such a raw manner that I have been thinking about them ever since. I found some of the characters fairly unlikeable but this did not detract from my enjoyment of the book
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This novel is unique! Every few months someone calls a new book "the new normal people" - this isn't it, Luster is its own beautiful creation, but I hadn't seen anything that raw and honest and daring since Normal People. 

The author explores Relationships, sex, race, mental health and body image with no shame and no censure. I was absolutely mesmerised by her prose, and the audiobook narrator was extremely good and captivating. 

10/10 would recommend!
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Luster is about Edie a young 23 year old black woman who is lost and lonely. She makes terrible life decisions but she's fully aware of it but she just can't seem to stop.

She meets Eric a middle aged white man, who let's her know up front that he is married but its an open relationship, his wife Rebecca is has even provided a list of rules for them to follow. As our story unfolds Edie gets pulled more and more into the marriage and finds herself bonding with the couples adopted daughter Akila who is also black.

Luster is so amazing. I can't even describe how much I loved this book. Its weird and funny and just crazy. This book just hit my sweet spot and I could not put it down.
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This is very odd book. It is really interesting but the characters are completely unrelatable to me except for maybe Akila - the young black teenage girl adopted by a white couple and struggling to find her place in an all white environment. 

This book is about a 23 year old black girl that starts an affair with a married man (in a semi open relationship with his wife) and stalks/inserts herself into their home and lives. Edie is very flawed. She has very low self esteem, combined with some daddy issues which causes her to sleep around with lots of different people (I think as a means to try and feel something). Eric is a white older man who’s probably in his late 40s, so they make an odd match because of the race, age and socio economic differences. He also has issues - I think with suppressed rage or feelings of inadequacy which leads him down this path - though the author doesn’t really explore his rationale. His wife Rebecca is also very strange. She allows their relationship but is also resentful of it. She feels sorry for Edie when she runs into trouble and takes her in but is also quite manipulative and uses her to help serve as a “how to be black” guru for her teenage daughter, who has alternative interests and struggles to make friends.

The whole situation is weird and complicated and feels completely unrealistic to me. All the characters are flawed and have issues and react in strange ways (except for Akila as mentioned before). However, the book navigates racism, sexism, trauma and relationships in a wholly novel way. It is hard to explain and the blurb doesn’t do it enough justice, but it is a really great read. I listened to the audiobook and finished it in one session - the narrator was amazing.
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The narration was absolutely fab! It felt like it really transmitted the darkness of the book. The story itself, I'm not sure what I was was very well written! I wasn't super keen on it but mostly because of my current headspace. I'm sure I would've appreciated it more at a different time in my life.
I think I probably would've appreciated it more had I read the actual written book rather than listening to it.
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Unfortunately, not my cup of tea... I felt that the synopsis told half of the story already and nothing that much more interesting was happening in the other half of the book. I wanted to like this book, I really did... So many times I felt like DNF this, but kept going, just in case. But nothing happened... On the positive side, the writing was beautiful and the narrator was great, I guess it’s just the storyline that didn’t really work for me; expected more from synopsis, that’s all. I’m sure many people will enjoy this book, but it’s best to just go in without knowing what the book is about.
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I took some time to decide what rating to give it and I’ve just changed it from 4 to 3 stars. I felt this was a bit slow going and the story seemed to jump about a lot. There’s a change in the first half and the second half that I can’t quite put my finger on, which could be because I read this as an audiobook, and also followed along with an ebook borrowed from my library. 

I wanted to enjoy this but I just couldn’t connect with the characters, the writing style felt quite cold and detached and I felt there wasn’t really a lot happening. 

I think this is also a challenging book to listen to as opposed to reading, but don’t let my review put you off, I’ve seen loads of people who have loved this, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
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I listened to this with great care and wanted so much to love it as I have seen some excellent reviews and heard so many people raving about it. 

Edie as a character is so damaged and puts herself into situations that expose her vulnerabilities further. It’s so hard to listen and relate to that from a position of privilege when I haven’t experienced those things. 

I found it very hard not to judge her decision making - she supports Akila shoplifting, she entangles herself into a marriage that from the inside appears broken itself. Trying to understand the dynamics of each of the relationships between Edie and Rachel, Eric and Akila was complex. 

I didn’t love this as much as I wanted to, but I was intrigued. I was left wanting to know whether she was ok by the end and was disappointed it was left so open ended. Perhaps the imagery and the character development within wasnt for me, as I know so many who have devoured it and hungered for more afterwards, being unable to leave it behind. 

Thank you for the gifted copy.
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Edie is a 23 year old black woman, who falls into a white, married couple’s open relationship and everything that comes along with that.

Well, I think this might be one of my first major unpopular opinions, as I really did not like this. I’m not sure whether it’s because I listened to it rather than read it, but I HATED the writing style. I saw someone compare it to try to fulfill a Creative Writing 101 class and I completely agree. It’s so wordy and metaphors are thrown about like there’s no tomorrow, and it just didn’t need to be like that. I understand that this will suit so many people, but it just did not suit me.
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Trigger Warnings: 
Racism, Police Brutality, Sexual Aggression, Alcoholism/Substance Abuse, Violence, Mental Health, Suicide, Bereavement, Miscarriage.   

No book lives in a vacuum, so, before I review Luster – I’d like to take a moment to discuss some points raised by Mikki Kendall in Hood Feminism. When Kendall discusses femininity, feminism and womanhood within her book, she makes one thing painfully clear. Black Women are seen to be strong in their pain, that they are expected to feel less and respond quietly. That is this injustice and disadvantage that they carry with them like air in their lungs; something they’re unable to purge as it poisons them. Though, to Kendall’s credit, she explains it far more succinctly and a lot less with metaphor than that. The reason I bring it up now is because Luster is just one long expression of pain. 

‘All of it, even the love, is a violence.’ - Luster, Raven Leilani. 

To take another detour through my thoughts on Luster, Fish Tank (2009) is a film about a fifteen year old girl who is so used to poverty and neglect, that the smallest inclination towards kindness from her mum’s new boyfriend leads to an affair and violence. It’s a tense indie film I watched way too young, and the longer I listened to Luster, the more it felt like Fish Tank mixed with Hood Feminism. Queenie by Candice Carty Williams, if Queenie had been more honest, and less edited for a mainstream audience. A psychological analysis of society’s foot as it presses on a Black woman’s neck. 

I found it really jarring that the marketing and blurb drew expectations for something ‘funny’ in this novel. I did not find this novel funny at all, and yet all of the endorsements describe it as ‘comedic’ in some variation. Possibly, I’m just not in on the joke. Queenie was also endorsed as a comedy adjacent to Bridget Jones’ Diary. I didn’t really get the funny there either. This book just made me angry and sad. I can’t remember a single moment where I felt ‘in on the joke’, and that’s not to say I felt sorry for any of the characters either. These are not likable people. Edie (the protagonist) and Rebecca (the wife of the man Edie is having an affair with) were my favourites, but they are not good people. Everyone is a broken, everyone is twisted, and their actions make no sense to me what so ever- but each action and choice is driven by pain and experience, and even though I can’t fathom them, I can empathise. They are wholly authentic, brutal and real. 

Luster will not hold your hand as you experience the merciless truths laid bare by the narrator, it will not shy away from absolute honesty with the audience, and the tightly wound web of lies the narrator must exploit to survive. It’s a fantastically, beautifully cruel book. 

This is a book for those who enjoy Three Women by Lisa Taddeo or Daddy by Emma Cline.
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I really enjoyed listening to Luster on audio.  It was an easy listen and compelling storytelling, but wasn't quite a 5* book for me. 

I love stories that are more of a character study than a plot-driven narrative and so this is definitely my kind of book, however, the characters didn't deliver for me. 

Edie was a likeable but flawed protagonist, who you are supposed to be frustrated by - and I very much was but not in a good way! I felt sorry for her, but maybe wasn't given enough insight into her life prior to meeting Eric to truly understand how she became the person she is. I did enjoy the dynamic between her and Akila, who I felt great sympathy for, but I feel that Leilani only touched the surface with this. I didn't find Eric and Rebecca as well fleshed out as I'd hoped. I know they're not intended to be likeable, but I didn't find them believable. I don't think their whole relationship was very clear, and the motives behind Rebecca bringing Edie into their home a little blurred. I was expecting more of an answer at the end, but this didn't really deliver.

This didn't detract from the enjoyment too much, as like I said, it was an easy listen and this has been on my TBR pile for quite a while! I think it for me had a lot to live up to with all of the hype surrounding it in the publishing world, which perhaps is why it fell a little short of my expectations. 

But I would read more from her, and recommend it to others as there's plenty in there to discuss with friends!
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Thank you to @netgalley and the publishers for the free copy of this audiobook to listen to in exchange for an honest review! 

Luster is an interesting novel about a young woman in her 20s called Edie, who meets an older man online called Eric and begins a relationship with him. The book follows Edie as she ends up losing her job, and eventually finds herself living in Eric’s house with his wife Rebecca and adopted daughter Akila. The rest of the story focuses on Edie’s relationship with Rebecca, but also on the developing bond between Akila and Edie. Edie is the only Black woman Akila knows, and becomes somewhat of a role model and guide for her. 

I was really intrigued by this book - I’d read rave reviews about it but also negative ones, and as it was also longlisted for the Women’s Prize I was very keen to read it. Overall, I’d say it is a good book and was definitely worth the read. It had some interesting characters and dealt with some relatable themes (of being a millennial in your 20s, lost and lonely and not sure of your place in the world). However, I’m not sure I ‘enjoyed’ this book much. The writing style was very cold and detached, and there were just a lot of situations I didn’t find that believable. There were times listening to this when I thought, would the characters really let themselves get into this situation? It just didn’t seem that credible that they would, and this made it difficult to immerse myself in the story. 

Also, it was quite confusing and jarring that at the beginning of the book, Edie is hilarious, however once you get to about 50% of the way through she completely loses any humour? The story itself also began in quite an engaging way, and then at around the midway point it became kind of boring and uneventful, and sort of focused on the minutiae of the characters living alongside each other.

Overall I wouldn’t say I loved this, but I did enjoy the first half. I thought that the narrator’s cold delivery paired well with the detached style of the prose. I think I would’ve enjoyed the story more if there had been more consistency to the characters and a bit more credibility to the situations they found themselves in.
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So refreshing!!

Raven's writing is ever so clever and gets the message across in a fantastic way. 

Edie is broke and alone. But like everyone else she wants to belong, she wants to be loved so she takes what's available... even if this means sleeping with Eric, a married man, under some rules established by his wife!

Dark, funny and raw, this is a must read (or in this case listen!) 

Thank you NetGalley and Macmillan Audio UK for granting me access to this title.
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Fantastic narrator! I found myself thinking at times that this was a non-fiction as I found the narrator so believable.

Reviewing a book like this always feels strange because of the subject matter. I did enjoy this book and the experience. At times, I found it so uncomfortable to continue that I had to have a break and do something else.

Not a lot happens in the book really. But the amount of emotions and the vulnerability and insightful exploration of this lost person bulks out the story.

The writing style really gripped me, and I will be keeping an eye out for more from Leilani.
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I feel like I requested this book quite a long time ago and when it wasn’t approved, I assumed it wasn’t going to happen. So when the email popped up for it I was so happy. It was initially the beautiful cover that drew me to this book and then once I read the description, I was sold. Thank you to @RavenLeilani and @panmacmillan for this audio copy of Luster in return for an honest review. Luster is out now and you can get a copy here.

Description 🔖

Edie is in her early twenties, struggling and lonely. The office in which she works employs predominantly white people and she’s hanging on to the job by the skin of her teeth whilst sleeping with her co-workers. She’s messing up her professional life and her private life. She meets a middle aged white man who just to happens to be married with an adopted daughter. He and his wife have an agreement regarding the openness of their marriage and therefore Edie is thrown into their suburban life.

General Thoughts 🤔

Well this book certainly slapped me in the face and caught my attention right from the beginning. It’s raw yet funny and I felt like I could feel every emotion Edie was feeling through the words. I am not averse to feeling uncomfortable when reading a book and this book did just that.

One thing I definitely took away from this book is that I really do not miss my twenties. Edie didn’t know who she was, what she was worth and felt like she was consistently failing at life. Add on the additional pressures that being a black woman in her twenties brings and (to be blunt) it’s f**king hard!

Characters 👬👭👫

I laughed with Edie and I wanted to yell at her at the same time. Her decision making was at times awful but that is easy for me to say from my own perspective. Just when I thought that maybe she was pulling it together she’d do something stupid. Her vulnerability was masked with a blasé attitude that really made me feel quite sad.

Eric made my blood boil and I don’t know if that’s a rational feeling towards this character or not. I felt like he took advantage of Edie’s neediness to fulfil his own lust. I thought he was selfish but then the argument could be made that Edie walked into the situation with eyes wide open and not only did she not discourage it, she initiated aspects of their relationship.

Writing Style ✍️

The writing is what made this book special in my opinion. It’s so impressive not only for a debut but just overall. I can’t remember the last time I read a book that delivered such dry humour that also made me tear up at the same time (and not from laughing). I’ve read some other reviews that felt that the writing was distant and they weren’t able to connect. I’d agree that it is distant, but personally I thought that that was what made it brilliant and uncomfortable.

The whole book is written in first person through Edie’s perspective and I thought that was perfect. The narration in the audiobook captured Edie’s voice so well and I wonder if this added to how much I thoroughly enjoyed the writing.

Conclusion & Scoring 🎖️

If you don’t mind feeling uncomfortable and reading about feelings and emotions that aren’t necessarily in line with your own but you can understand then you will love this book. I adored it and I don’t think I need to add any more!
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Wow.  What a book. 

I can't form the words well enough to say why this is such a great book but believe all the hype you hear about this book and read it.  I listened to the audio version and I feel hearing the narrator helped me like it even more than I thought I would.

I had my ideas about what this book would be about but the actual content just blew me out of the water.  This is the kind of book I wish I had read when I was younger.

It is the story of Edie, a black girl (young lady) stuck in a dead end job sleeping with the wrong men and just bumbling through life.  She meets a man named Eric, who she starts dating,  Eric drops the bomb that he is married and in an open marriage.  Edie ends up living with Eric, his wife and their adopted black daughter, Akila.

I am so glad that stories about more every day girls are now being written into books, it's so refreshing to not only read about ethnic girls, but ethnic girls who are totally normal.  We can be underachievers just pushing through life, we don't need to fit any type of model minority story.

The book has been described in other reviews as "blistering" and I have to agree.  It is a book written in an unapologetic way about a girl just being.  Edie navigates being the token minority at work, how we have to change our voices to fit in and also the trauma of her parents.

Edie finds herself moving into the house Eric shares with his wife and daughter and realises that she is the only black influence Akila has in her life.  However, the book is so well written and aware that Akila does give the reader the usual happy ending where she would fall in love with Edie as a saviour.  The relationship between the two is totally natural and how it would be in real life if a strange person moved into your house for no reason.

Such a refreshing book and I am so glad I read it.  I would recommend it to everyone!

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3.99 stars, I reckon. Not quite a four. I didn’t like Rebecca at all - I didn’t find her character believable, and the whole family environment in general was.. quite weird. I felt sad for Akila a lot of the time. How were this strange couple able to adopt her?! There are some incredible observations though, about delivery apps, Gen Z, IBS.. so many similar discussions I’ve had with friends. Great writing, kind of a spiky story.
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First off listening to this on netgalley audio I was so not used to the way this book was written. 
Was I going to like it?

I’ll stick with it I though as I’m relaxing.

Oh my! Eddie the protagonist is such a young fiesty, determined, out of the normal zone character I’ve ever met. In your face, so close you could kiss her! And that’s what her lifestyle was about, getting by, by whatever means she needed.

Signing a contract of rules when sleeping with a guy twice her age, problem is, there’s a problem.....
And no, not just that the guys married, oh no, it’s an open marriage so no problem there, it’s something else for sure.

I got so lost in listening to this and so need deep in its “draw me in” writing, I forgot to put my roast on! At least I could move fast still listening to this audio book. 

The narrator was great. I feel the voice was so fluent and the pitch power and pace spot on.

I don’t think everyone is going to like this book. It’s different.
It’s gutsy, it smacks a punch and the area of writing is not usual. But if you’re willing to try something less conventional in the book world I’d say go for this.

I really didn’t think I was going to like it as much as I did. But once I learned why Eddie fell into these kind of situations I could reconcile with reading more.

I went in blind. I expected to maybe not like it as I’m older generation and came out with,, that was a punch.
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I think I may need to come back to this properly once I've sat with it for a mo, but: I listened to this full book on audiobook, as I received an ARC of it through Netgalley. It took me three days, because I tend to listen to them when I'm getting ready or cleaning or doing things etc.

This was uncomfortable and strange and messy and so full of sex but completely lacking in desire. I didn't love all the writing choices, or the similes. There's a cool distance in the story itself and a complete willingness by the author to go hard into the unruly depths of the main character. Edie clearly doesn't know herself, fully, and is at a remove from the reader too. Something that struck me is that the text itself isn't particularly interested in asking for or expecting of sympathy. It's almost clinical, with a detachment that offers a very particular honesty. There is no effort made to pare things down or make them more palatable: they are presented and laid bare in dysfunctional humanity. This book was very, very successful and it does exactly what it means to do. I think it has the same insight and sharpness that I felt Ottessa Moshfegh did, but I preferred this.

The audiobook itself was pretty good -- the narrator was easy to follow and engaging. I found it easy to listen along with and she kept my attention. The only criticism I had is that the parts that were added in afterwards you could really hear the difference, which threw me every time.

Anyway I have no idea what to rate this book, because like I said: this book is extremely successful and I think it's well-written. I've seen people say they think it's funny, but t never struck me as particularly funny -- even though its obviously meant in a dark humour sort of way. This just felt like staring into the gaping maw of someone's hurt.
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