A portrait of Lee Miller, the American cover girl and war photographer whose wild spirit captivated Picasso, Cocteau, and other eminences in 1930s Paris.
Readers meet Lee in 1966, at the farm where she retreated with her British husband, a painter and curator, after documenting Nazi atrocities and the liberation of Europe as Vogue's war correspondent. She's forgotten the old boxes of photoprints she heaved up to the attic—including the one of her posing in Hitler's bathtub—and now writes mainly about food, brilliantly, though she drinks so heavily she misses deadlines. She's expecting to get sacked when her editor suggests taking a pause to write about her years in Paris as Man Ray's student and about some of his photos from that time. "The woman's touch….A story only you can tell." Cornered, Lee accepts—with one caveat: not his photos, hers. And what a story! It starts with Lee's first glimpse of Ray at a surrealist orgy she's dragged to by new acquaintances. After modeling couture for some of the best photographers in New York, she's just 22 and come to the Left Bank to make art. The only male in the room wearing a suit, Ray rescues her from their leering host and invites her to drop by his studio. That Ray, who is close to 50, doesn't come on to her means the world given Lee's history—raped by a family friend as a young child and ogled by powerful men ever since. She's not interested in posing, as he assumes, but makes herself indispensable by keeping him on schedule and showing his posh clients how to relax in front of a camera—a skill she acquired while posing au naturel for her weird-but-loving father, an amateur shutterbug. She's mildly obsessed by Ray's girlfriend, Kiki, the local chanteuse and artist's model whom Ray has photographed nude many times. But Kiki is history the day Ray shows Lee how to print off her first photograph—the nape of a woman's neck, her fingers scratching the skin—taken with the Rolleiflex camera he helped her buy. Later, as she thinks back on what they gave and took from each other, she'll wonder which of them was more destroyed. Scharer sets her viewfinder selectively, focusing on her heroine's insecurities as much as her accomplishments as an artist; her hunger to be more than "a neck to hold pearls, a slim waist to show off a belt" is contrasted with her habit of solving problems by simply leaving. The price for Lee is steep, but it makes for irresistible reading.
Sexy and moving.
Named a most anticipated book of 2019 by Oprah.com, Entertainment Weekly, Southern Living, Woman's Day, and Pop Sugar
"Scharer's debut is a rivetingly sexy snapshot of the duo's real-life relationship as it morphs from apprenticeship to partnership to tumultuous love affair." Kim Hubbard, People
"Whatever reams of research Scharer put into excavating Miller's story she distills here into clean, consistently evocative prose. The glittering bohemia of 1930s Paris, the pastoral boredom of mid-'60s Sussex, the hollowed-out carnage of postwar Europe; all come equally alive on the page, as do iconic figures like Ray and Cocteau and Kiki de Montparnasse. But none breathe more vividly than Miller herself: Fiercely independent but racked by self-doubt, desperate for affection and approval even as she chafed at sentiment, she spent decades fighting to find her voice. It was worth the wait."
"Like Paris in the
1930s, Sharer's first novel is a radiant clash of romance and reality"O, the Oprah Magazine
"She joins such novelists as Paula McLain ("The Paris Wife") and Rupert Thomson ("Never Anyone but You") in a most worthy enterprise: repopulating male-dominated accounts of the past with the many noteworthy women who deserve the same limelight."Donna Rikfind, Washington Post
"Scharer...skillfully renders an electric version of the city, pulling the reader into the opulence and mystery of the era."Annabel Gutterman, Time
"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."Caroline Leavitt, Boston Globe
"Is "woman behaves dangerously, lives wildly" a genre? If so, The Age of Light is its latest poster child. The novel is work of historical fiction about Lee Miller, a Vogue model who became one of the first female war correspondents. In Scharer's plot,
Miller travels to Paris where she meets photographer Man Ray, who becomes her collaborator and lover. While most stories about Miller paint her as Ray's muse, this one portrays her as the independent and daring artist she truly was."Glamour
Scharer's debut is both engrossing and cinematic, a must for readers who enjoy a fictional peek into the lives of real-life artists.Library Journal
"Scharer sets her viewfinder selectively, focusing on her heroine's insecurities as much as her accomplishments as an artist; her hunger to be more than "a neck to hold pearls, a slim waist to show off a belt" is contrasted with her habit of solving problems by simply leaving. The price for Lee is steep, but it makes for irresistible reading. Sexy and moving."Kirkus, starred review
"Scharer's intoxicating first novel...bring[s] a stunning chiaroscuro effect to the saga of a woman transforming herself into an artist."Booklist, starred review
"Scharer's stellar debut chronicles the tumultuous working and romantic relationships of photographer Man Ray and model-turned-photographer Lee Miller in early 1930s Paris...This brilliant portrayal of the complicated couple features a page-turning story and thrillingly depicts the artistic process."Publishers Weekly, starred review
"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. Whitney Scharer is a stunning new discovery. This novel sparks on every page."Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife and Love and Ruin
Scharer's storytelling is utterly immersive and gorgeous in its details,
transporting you into Lee Miller's life, and her struggles to be taken seriously in a man's world. This is a powerful, sensual and gripping portrait of the forging of an artist's soul."Madeline Miller, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Circe and Song of Achilles
"In incandescent prose, Whitney Scharer has created an unforgettable heroine discovering her passion, her independence, and her art-and what she must sacrifice to have them. Sweeping from the glamour of 1920s Paris through the battlefields of World War II and into the war's long shadow, The Age of
Light is a startlingly modern love story and a mesmerizing portrait of a woman's self-transformation from muse into artist."Celeste Ng, New York Times bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere
"An extraordinary young woman discovers love and art and betrayal among the artists of 1930s Paris and documents the horrors of war through her singular camera lens. An uplifting, heartbreaking and altogether immersive read."Helen Simonson, New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Before the War and Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
Age of Light is a bold, intimate and gorgeous novel-at once a vivid romp through the salons and parties of the Paris art world in the 1930s and a breathtaking close up of a woman battling to be both muse and artist, lover and collaborator, and above all, herself. This is a relevant, utterly enthralling debut from a talented writer who understands the complex intersection of ambition and femininity. I was swept off my feet."Jessica Shattuck, New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Castle and The Hazards of Good Breeding
I first read The Age of Light, I thought it might have been written expressly for me, since it has everything I love in it: photography, sex, love,
war, 1920s Paris, a relationship struggle between two artists, a woman's journey from model to photographer, and the most exquisite writing.
Then I realized: this magnetic, addictive novel will beguile every reader.
Read it, read it!"Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Lost Family
"A masterpiece, The Age of Light is a searing, evocative novel of love and war, and a woman's fierce determination to transcend her role as muse and remake the world through her own art. Whitney
Scharer is a remarkably gifted storyteller - a major new voice in historical fiction."Dawn Tripp, bestselling author of Georgia and Game of Secrets
"Scharer's scrupulous research and dazzling prose fuse to create a captivating portrait of the little-known - but now unforgettable - Lee
Miller, whose exceptional beauty, bold conviction, and rare talent disrupted the male-centric art scene of 1920's Paris."Georgia Hunter, New York Times bestselling author of We Were the Lucky Ones
DEBUT During a midlife malaise, Vogue writer Lee Miller is given an assignment to pen her previous life with surrealist artist and photographer Man Ray. So begins the this novel's narrative, painting a vivid portrait of bohemian Paris from the 1930s to 1940s. Lee, a former Vogue model, moves to Paris to reinvent herself as a photographer. There she meets Man Ray, who becomes her mentor, tutor, and lover. She becomes his muse. The troubled and intense relationship between the two is described among meetings with other famous artists of the time; in opium dens and smoky bars catering to the artistic and the elite. Lee also reflects on her time as a photojournalist documenting the atrocities of World War II. Her journey is of a woman overcoming the shadows of the men in her life and reclaiming her own story. VERDICT Scharer's debut is both engrossing and cinematic, a must for readers who enjoy a fictional peek into the lives of real-life artists. Recommend to admirers of Harriet Scott Chessman's Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper. [See Prepub Alert, 8/20/18.]—Nanci Milone Hill, M.G. Parker Memorial Lib., Dracut, MA