Luster by Raven Leilani review – a millennial novel for the ages

This acerbic debut, about a young black woman’s relationship with a rich white couple, will be among the year’s best

Luster sails into 2021 on clouds of praise, vapour trails of hype streaming behind it. “The most delicious novel I’ve read,” says Candice Carty-Williams; “brutal – and brilliant” opines Zadie Smith. Perhaps she would say that, being Raven Leilani’s mentor and former tutor at NYU.

But she’s also right: Luster is both brutal and brilliant, and a debut that’s sure to still be topping best-of-the-year lists in 12 months’ time. Leilani’s story of Edie, a broke 23-year-old black woman who gets involved with a wealthy older white couple, cuts to the quick of the often grim realities of being young and black in the US today. But it’s wincingly funny, too, Edie’s dry observational narration dissecting office, racial and sexual politics – and the way all three intersect, uneasily – amid the grind of city living and online dating.

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