Lee Miller is accustomed to the male gaze. She has stood in its light for decades, first as the subject of her father’s photos and then as a Vogue cover model. But by the time she meets renowned photographer Man Ray in Paris, Lee has grown tired of being captured on film. Instead, she wants to step behind the camera. She wants to become the person wielding control, to tell stories instead of serving as a prop in someone else’s narrative. She convinces Man Ray to take her on as an assistant, but eventually Lee finds herself guided by her mentor’s instincts. She morphs from assistant to protégé, muse and lover.
Decades later, Lee has rewritten her story. She’s a domestic correspondent for Vogue, but she knows her editor has grown weary of the multicourse dinners she writes about and photographs. The editor offers her an ultimatum: Write about your years with Man Ray—or else your time at Vogue may end.
Lee agrees, but she insists the magazine publish her photos, not Man Ray’s, and the editor pushes back. “This is a story about Man Ray,” she says. “But it’s not,” Lee thinks. “And that’s been the problem all along.”
In her bold debut novel, The Age of Light, Whitney Scharer gives new life to Lee Miller, whose place in history has been overshadowed by her larger-than-life teacher. Scharer’s retelling draws from Lee’s relationships with men and her remarkable body of work as she progresses from a New York City model to a photographer in 1930s Paris, from a World War II correspondent to a gourmet cook in the 1960s. Scharer’s lusty prose illuminates Lee’s struggles and ambition in this lush tale.
This article was originally published in the February 2019 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.