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The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer
Historical fiction

The Age of Light

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Whitney Scharer, on your first book!

by Whitney Scharer

Quick take

Love, lust, and jealousy collide in this racy bohemian art world of 1930s Paris.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Romance


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NonLinear

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Real-life-characters

    Real-life characters

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SalaciousPeach


Why I love it

Taylor Jenkins Reid
Author, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

The Age of Light had me at “a love affair between real-life photographers Lee Miller and Man Ray.” But when I learned it's also the story of a woman who moves beyond muse to artist, I all but threw myself at it and yelled, "Take my money!" I'm a sucker for a woman demanding to be heard.

When Lee Miller arrives in 1930s Paris, she's determined to put her successful modeling career behind her and go behind the lens. Soon, she meets Surrealist artist Man Ray and convinces him to make her not his subject, but his assistant. As the two work closely together, Lee finds her voice as a photographer. Slowly, they fall in love, but quickly, the lines of their relationship blur. Is she his muse or partner? Are they faithful or not? Where does one person end and the other begin?

I never knew just how sensual developing film could be until Lee Miller and Man Ray got into that dark room. And while Man comes to life on the page as a vulnerable and possessive figure, it’s Lee—her tenacity, confidence, and passion for beauty—who steals the show. Her relationship to her body—her understanding of her own beauty, her fearless lust and brazen sexuality—creates some of the most captivating moments of the story. Lee Miller’s time in Paris and how it echoes through the rest of her life is a story I won’t soon forget. I suspect you won’t either.

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"I'd rather take a picture than be one," says Lee Miller after she arrives in Paris in 1929. Yearning for a different life and haunted by her past, Lee leaves behind a successful modeling career to pursue her dream of being an artist. She catches the eye of the famous Surrealist Man Ray, and though he wants to use her only as a model, Lee convinces him to teach her photography as well. Man Ray is an egotistical, charismatic force, and their personal and professional lives become intimately entwined as the lines between maker and muse begin to blur.

Lee's story unfolds against the sumptuous backdrop of bohemian Paris, with nights spent at smoky cabarets, opium dens, and wild parties, and days spent working with Man Ray to discover radical new photography techniques. But as Lee begins to find success as an artist in her own right, Man Ray's jealousy spirals out of control, and soon their mutual betrayals threaten to destroy them both.

Told in interweaving timelines of 1930s Paris and war-torn Europe during WWII, this sensuous, richly detailed debut brings Lee Miller—a brilliant and pioneering artist—out of the shadows of a man's legacy and into the light.

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Get an early look from the first pages of The Age of Light.

Member thoughts

All (4873)
All (4873)
Love (1628)
Like (2461)
Dislike (784)
5149 ratings
  • 32% Love
  • 48% Like
  • 15% Dislike
  • Stafford, VA

    Couldn’t put this book down. A must read for any lover of art and photography. Much more than just a love story between a “Man” and woman, it’s a passionate love story between a woman and her art.

  • Nashville, TN

    Delightful piece of historical fiction about the life of the artist Lee Miller while living in 1920’s/30’s Paris. It also touches on her experiences taking photos during WWII and how that affected her

  • Haydenville, MA

    This is the number one book for me. I’ve been a member of BOTM for a year and of the 15+ books I’ve read in that year this is by far the best book. Extremely impressed with this writers first novel!!

  • Tujunga, CA

    Passion, lust, love and art. It reflects on the creative drive and vital importance of art in the formation of 20th century culture. Catalogs the protagonist’s failed search for identity, fulfillment.

  • Dallas, TX

    As someone who studied Art History, I thoroughly enjoyed a book from the perspective of one of Man Ray’s lovers; It was beautifully written, thought-provoking and a time piece love story worth the rea

  • Tucson, AZ

    As an artist, this book spoke to me. I loved the weaving of 1930s Paris with the love story of Lee Miller and Man Ray. This book is an art historian’s dream and a great intro for others to learn more.

  • Radnor, OH

    I couldn't put it down. I loved following along with Lee's journey from being in front of, to behind, the camera lens. This book follows her adventures, successes, challenges and everything in between

  • Odessa, TX

    It took me awhile to get into this read, but once I researched the people and their works I got very invested! They are some very talented artists. I was constantly looking up new artists from the era

  • Grand Lake, CO

    Pleasantly surprised. I thought it was well written and had a great story. Didn’t know characters were real people and I really liked how the storyline was structured. I will be passing this on

  • Royal Oak , MI

    I originally gave this 3/5, but I realized that this book stuck with me for a few days after reading. I really loved learning about lee and her history and have resolved to learn more about her life.

  • Portland, OR

    I absolutely loved this tale of the incredible woman that is Lee Miller. I can't stop looking up MORE information about her! Thought-provoking, honest, and well-written, The Age of Light is darn good.

  • Sioux Falls, SD

    I absolutely loved this story, and learning about how the historical events took place; about the artists and how the artists interacted in the Roaring Twenties and early Great Depression. Very moving

  • Caldwell, NJ

    An outstanding debut novel, beautifully written and compellingly told. The story is set alternately in the late 1920s-early 1930s Paris art world; the grim liberation of Europe in the '40s; & the '70s

  • Renton, WA

    I couldn't initially get into this book but came back to it months later and couldn't put it down.A complicated women set in Paris in the 20s. Surrounded by art and artist.Honestly what's not to love?

  • Hubert , NC

    Absolutely amazing! Everything about it is perfect. I almost couldn't put it down. Very intense. At the end I was exhausted. It has perhaps the best, most fitting, ending of any story I've ever read.

  • Coconut Grove, FL

    Enjoyed the story so much, I read biographies of Man Ray and Lee Miller immediately after. It turns out certain events portrayed in this book are fairly inaccurate, but it still made for a great read!

  • Miami , FL

    Loved this book. A different kind of love story. I like how it goes back in time and then to the present. A beautiful love story based on real people. I did not know until the end they were real.

  • Boulder, CO

    Favorite book I've read in a while! Well developed and very descriptive, so much so that you can understand the love and the tension, can visualize the art, and be transported to this time in history.

  • New Carlisle, IN

    I felt as if I were in the rooms with Man Ray and Lee the entire time I read this book. I felt liberated, anxious, curious, and even slightly depressed. Such an interesting story during a trying time.


    Wonderful read! It helped me appreciate the beauty of art, especially photography. I always imagine how it is like living in the past and this book is a beautiful reminder of an artist life in 1930's.

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