Title: The Age of Light
Author: Whitney Scharer
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Expected Publication Date: February 05, 2019
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 Stars
I was recently sent an ARC of The Age of Light by the publicists at Little, Brown and Company in exchange for an honest review. This work of historical fiction by Whitney Scharer is expected to be published on February 05, 2019.
The Age of Light is a captivating and exhilarating narrative that keeps readers emotionally invested up to the very last page. Masquerading as historical fiction, the novel recounts the life of Vogue model turned photographer, Lee Miller and her relationship with Man Ray, one of the most influential figures of the Dada and Surrealists movements ensuing Paris in the 1930s.
In incandescent prose debut writer, Whitney Scharer creates a female empowering tale of a heroine’s journey away from home to discover her passion, her independence, and her art. The story unravels under the glamour and melancholy of Paris amidst the changes resulting from World War II and its lingering stench on much of Europe with a young woman’s determination to transform herself from subject of art to creator of art.
In 1966 Lee is a middle-aged woman who occupies her time preparing elaborate ten-course meals and writing cooking articles for Vogue. She lives on a farm in Sussex, England with her husband, Roland. Day after day, she feels her life droning on with little excitement. Her life is shaken once more when her editor, Audrey wakes Lee up from her dull slumber and requests for her to write a piece for Vogue about her years with Man Ray. Audrey wants Lee’s story to be romantic, like a fairy tale, but Lee ultimately decides to tell the real story: “the one where she loved a man and he loved her, but in the end they took everything from each other – who can say who was more destroyed?” So begins the story of a woman who loved a man and he loved her, but in the end, they took love away from each other and are both left destroyed.
Paris 1929 begins the heart of a vividly detailed chronicle of a professional mentorship and friendship that quickly spirals into a toxic love affair, augmenting a prolific period of creation as Lee and Man Ray become each other’s whim. Devoured by the decadence of Paris and the bohemian lifestyle – in smoky salons, hidden speakeasies, and dimly lit cafes, the reader is drawn into a tumultuous and provocative period of Lee’s life.
From Lee, Man finds inspiration in his primary passion as a painter. From Man, Lee learns to become the photographer as opposed to the one being photographed. Surrounded by the money patrons of the elite, the Avant-Garde thinkers, and the bourgeois flaneurs, the novel’s plot is propelled by vignettes sensually detailed, producing a fascinating illustration of Paris during its rise to modernity.
The cast of characters that Lee and Ray cross paths with creates a voyeuristic window through which the sexuality of Lee and Man are revealed and become increasingly questionable. Haunted by a troubled relationship with her father that leads her to struggle with PTSD, and the introduction of a new male figure in her life, Lee’s perceptions of this new artsy world become dismantled and reconstructed as she perpetually tries to reconcile an unhealthy past of abuse, rape, depression, and alcoholism.
The Age of Light is an illuminating novel of the hope and effervescence that underlies a young woman’s journey of self-transformation. Lee’s life is trapped as a muse behind a camera lens from multiple figures who seek to capitalize on her beauty for personal benefits. Lee reclaims her essence, and creates her own art, identity and blooming success. This novel is a vivid and raw portrayal of a woman who struggles between art and creating art, and the torturous struggle of achieving both.