The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer
May 8, 2019
Dear Mr. Hemingway,
I love reading historical fiction. History infused with a splash of fiction is my cup of tea. Instead of reading a boring straight-up history book, why not read about the past with some added color and a little bit of oomph. Well Mr. H., I just got my fix reading Whitney Scharer’s debut novel, The Age of Light. Her story follows real-life Lee Miller, Vogue model turned renowned photographer/war correspondent. This story sheds light on Miller’s steamy, yet thorny relationship with Surrealist artist and photographer, Man Ray. Taking place primarily during the late 1920s and early 1930s in Paris, this book is filled to the brim with starving artists, lovers, cafes, and cocktails galore. With writing that stuns and a book cover to match, Scharer delivers a decadent treat.
I have to be honest with you. I did not know who Lee Miller was before reading this. I may have heard Man Ray’s name in passing, but truly did not know who these people were. Scharer’s story is told from Miller’s perspective through multiple timelines. Though the story primarily takes place during Miller’s time in Paris, Scharer intertwines her story from the 1940’s as well. Miller graced the cover of Vogue magazine in 1927 and became the most sought after model in NYC at that time. As much as modeling was a huge part of her, Miller wanted to shift her focus to creating art as opposed to being art. She moved to Paris in the late 1920’s and became the student of the famous Man Ray. What started off as a working relationship, quickly became an affair to remember. Ray and Miller’s relationship was overflowing with passion and art. Miller’s journey to make a name for herself in the art world with her photography no doubt involved Ray. As much as she tried to break away on her own, her relationship with Ray was always present and ultimately had a huge impact on her career.
Scharer’s writing is totally captivating. The Age of Light sucked me in from the start. With Vogue magazine, Salvador Dali, Picasso and even mentions of Hemingway in the background, Scharer paints a lush and glamorous atmosphere that makes you feel like you are in a scene from a movie sipping a fabulous cocktail among Paris’s most artistic crowd. Scharer’s story shows off the intensity of Miller and Ray’s relationship. Though they adored one another, their feelings were overpowered by passion, egos and the need to get ahead in their own careers. The Age of Light portrayed Miller as a woman seeking independence and respect in a male dominated world. Her transformation from muse to photographer and what she had to do in order to walk out of Man Ray’s shadow was potent. Miller’s trek from the imaginative streets of Paris to the war-ravaged towns in Europe during the second World War, highlighted her resolution to be a distinguished photographer in her own right. The Age of Light is a moving story from start to finish. Not only did the ending of this story leave me craving for more information about this influential artist from the past, it also had me reaching for a tissue to blot my tearful eyes.
Go get your passports readers……….you are heading to Paris (with a few stops in between). Bon Voyage!!!!!!
Talk soon Mr. H.!!!
Your Biggest Fan,
P.S. Click here to check out a photograph of Hemingway taken by Man Ray. There is a scene in the book that mentions this encounter!