February: “The Age of Light” by Whitney Scharer

The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer

Our February 2019 Book of the Month

Whitney Scharer’s debut novel, The Age of Light, about the model turned photographer Lee Miller is a delightful work of historical fiction in the genre of favorites Paula McLain and Nancy Horan. It is the story of a smart, talented woman caught in an emotional and artistic battle with her mentor and lover Man Ray. The book opens with her editor visiting Lee and asking her to finally write the story of her life with Man Ray. Lee thinks, “Tell it this way and it’s romantic, a fairy tale, and if you tell something enough times it becomes true, just the way a photograph can trick you into thinking it’s a memory.” To our delight as readers Whitney Sharer has Lee tell her story, but it is not quite a fairy tale. It is a realistic story of a beautiful woman trying to break from the expectations of her times and be an artist in her own right. With the backdrop of 1930’s Paris it is a breezy read with lush descriptions of art and life. Audrey her editor says, “This is a story about Man Ray.” However, Lee shows us that it is not, “And that’s been the problem all along.” The Age of Light is our selection for the February Book of the Month; it is up to you the reader to decide whether or not it is a romance.


She went to Paris to start over, to make art instead of being made into it.
A captivating debut novel by Whitney Scharer, The Age of Light tells the 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. But Man Ray turns out to be an egotistical, charismatic force, and 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 takes us from the cabarets of bohemian Paris to the battlefields of war-torn Europe during WWII, from discovering 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 reconcile romantic desire with artistic ambition-and what she will have to sacrifice to do so.

Told in interweaving timelines, this sensuous, richly detailed novel brings Lee Miller-a brilliant and pioneering artist-out of the shadows of a man’s legacy and into the light.


Whitney received her MFA in creative writing from the University of Washington in 2004. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous journals including New Flash Fiction Review, Cimarron Review, and Bellevue Literary Review. Originally from Colorado, she now lives outside Boston with her family. Her first novel, The Age of Light, is based on the life of pioneering photographer Lee Miller.

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