- About the Book
"Rapturous and razor sharp all at once, The Age of Light fearlessly unzips anything we might know of Lee Miller as model and muse and recasts her as artist, free thinker and architect of a singular and unapologetic life. This novel sparks on every page." --Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife and Love and Ruin A captivating debut novel by Whitney Scharer, The Age of Light tells the true story of Vogue model turned renowned photographer Lee Miller, and her search to forge a new identity as an artist after a life spent as a muse. "I'd rather take a photograph than be one," she declares after she arrives in Paris in 1929, where she soon catches the eye of the famous Surrealist Man Ray. Though he wants to use her only as a model, Lee convinces him to take her on as his assistant and teach her everything he knows. As they work together in the darkroom, their personal and professional lives become intimately entwined, changing the course of Lee's life forever. Lee's journey of self-discovery takes took her from the cabarets of bohemian Paris to the battlefields of war-torn Europe during WWII, from inventing radical new photography techniques to documenting the liberation of the concentration camps as one of the first female war correspondents. Through it all, Lee must grapple with the question of whether it's possible to stay true to herself while also fulfilling her artistic ambition--and what she will have to sacrifice to do so. Told in alternating timelines of 1930s Paris and the battlefields of WWII, this sensuous, richly researched and imagined debut novel brings to light the life of a fearless, original artist--a woman whose name and art should be known by everyone.
Miller's tempestuous real life from abused child to shellshocked war correspondent is tailor-made for historical fiction. For her debut novel, Scharer wisely focuses on the formative years that Miller spent with Ray.... Readers watching her mind at work may be tempted to say, "Oh, grow up!" But Miller's dilemma illustrates the pressures that many ambitious young women face in their love and work lives.
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
When Scharer intersplices short scenes from Miller's time as a photojournalist during the war, the juxtaposition is promising, but doesn't quite work; the Man Ray material unfolds at so leisurely a pace that it feels jarring when she interrupts it to flash forward.... Writers of historical fiction may of course take artistic license with their material to streamline or enhance what we see of a subject's life. However, presenting Lee late in life, as Scharer does, as a depressed alcoholic dying of lung cancer who no longer much cares if her achievements receive any recognition doesn't chime with the Lee we see in most of the novel. It's a shame because Scharer is herself a talented image-maker.... The Age of Light flickers companionably, but never ignites a fire.
—New York Times
—New York Times
Decadent and captivating, THE AGE OF LIGHT is a sumptuous trip to a time when imagination flowed throughout Paris and the artists who we revere today drank champagne all night and created all day.... Told in nearly photographic prose, this debut novel crystallizes an iconic moment in time, and highlights the birth of Surrealism, photojournalism, and the roles of women in these and many other movements.... Mesmerizing, wickedly sexy and full of girl power, THE AGE OF LIGHT is historical fiction for the modern reader. This unflinching portrait of one of the most iconic and yet often underlooked female artists will fill in many of the blanks in your knowledge of art history, while simultaneously reminding you to celebrate women's contributions to the industry. Whether you have a Lee Miller print hanging in your home right now or have only ever heard of Man Ray, THE AGE OF LIGHT will immediately pull you in.
Paris between the wars. Dadaists in garrets and galleries. Surrealists in darkrooms and opium dens. Vogue models in Schiaparelli originals. Readers who can't get enough of this milieu will be more than gratified by Whitney Scharer's first novel, The Age of Light. They'll also get a slightly fictionalized, readily digestible account of the life of Lee Miller, an American photographer whose career was encouraged and then eclipsed by her mentor, the avant-garde artist Man Ray.... Readers wanting more than these snapshots might turn to Carolyn Burke's 2005 biography, Lee Miller: A Life. Others will salute Scharer for emphasizing the romantic aspects of her historical romance, wading into the sexual politics of the era and thus exposing our own.
Scharer, who flipped the script by commanding a steep price for her artistry, offers a kind of transcendent ghost story, where the past never seems to leave the present's side. Her narrative moves hypnotically back and forth through time and through three very different Lees... Part of the heady pleasure of Scharer's novel is the writing, which is as seductive and beautiful as her descriptions of the shimmery satin kimonos in the opium den.... An absolutely gorgeous and feminist novel about art, love, and ownership, "The Age of Light" is truly a work of art in itself, both deeply moving and thrilling. Want to know what it's like to be an artist? Read this astonishing novel and then, like Lee Miller, take time to consider the extraordinary cost she paid to be herself.