Luster: Forceful and funny tale of race, gender and desire
Book review: Raven Leilani’s debut charts the messy lives of shiny, unhappy people
At first glance, Luster falls into a by-now familiar category of debut novels: a young woman whose life is in a mess tells her story in a deadpan, nihilistic tone of voice that makes change or redemption seem unlikely. But underpinning Raven Leilani’s book is a sense of humour so sharp we don’t realise we’re laughing until we see blood.
The novel is further elevated from its peers by the American author’s perceptive commentary on issues of race, gender and sexual politics. If contemporary authors such as Ottessa Moshfegh, Jean Kyoung Frazier and Naoise Dolan come to mind, so too do more established writers like Mary Gaitskill and Jonathan Franzen.