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The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer
Historical fiction

The Age of Light

Debut

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

by Whitney Scharer

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Quick take

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

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Romance

    Romance

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_NonLinear

    Nonlinear timeline

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Real-life-characters

    Real-life characters

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SalaciousPeach

    Salacious

Synopsis

"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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Free sample

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

PROLOGUE

FARLEY FARM, SUSSEX, ENGLAND, 1966

Hot July. The downs have greened up from the past week’s rain and rise into the sky like mossy breasts. From the windows in Lee Miller’s kitchen she sees hills in all directions. One straight gravel road. Stone walls made long before she got here that divide up the landscape and keep the sheep where they belong, calmly chewing. Her husband, Roland, with his walking stick, wends his way along the bridle path. He has two of their houseguests with him, and stops to point out a mole’s burrow that could break an ankle, or a cowpat that might be a little too much country for some visitors.

Lee’s herb garden is just outside the kitchen and about as far as she ever chooses to walk. Roland stopped asking her to join him on his constitutionals years ago, after she told him that until he puts a sidewalk on the downs and lines it with cafe? bars, she’s not going to be wasting her time tromping through the hillsides. Now she thinks he welcomes the time apart from her, as she does from him. Each time she watches him leave, the hand that’s clenched around her throat loosens a little.

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Why I love it

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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Member ratings (6,106)

  • Bethany H.

    Richmond, 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.

  • Marlo G.

    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

  • Karen K.

    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!!

  • Marica W.

    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.

  • Chanel J.

    New York CIty, NY

    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

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