First and foremost, a huge thank you to Little, Brown and Company and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC in exchange for my honest review.
Trigger Warning: This novel and review discuss the following: emotional abuse, toxic relationships, alcoholism.
Goodreads Rating: 4 Stars
This galley pique my interest as I love historical fiction, WWII, and a good love story, as well as a great setting- Paris, France.
Written in both a reflective past and present tense, Scharer introduces us to Lee Miller, a model turned photographer who studied under the great surrealist, Man Ray. Upon her introduction, Lee is serving a dinner for to some professional guests while downing a bottle of wine- and when the guests request she retell the story of her time spent with Man Ray, it’s as if the reader is transported back to Paris in 1929.
Lee had just moved to Paris from Poughkeepsie, and happened to meet a handful of photographers while at a bar. They end up introducing her to Man, and from there, their attraction to each other can’t be denied. Lee tells man that she would like to work for him, not as a model but as an assistant. Though he was hesitant, soon Man can see that Lee has a special talent behind the lens- even though she still manages to be in front of his camera a time or two. As the two become close, they give in to their attraction and form a handsome couple that many envy.
Lee enjoys the status of being with a man like Man. She is learning a lot from him, and blossoming as a photographer. He allows her to live luxuriously, they attend gatherings and parties, and they have a steamy relationship in the bedroom. However, as the “honeymoon” stage wanes, Lee starts to realize that Man is getting possessive, jealous, and increasingly needy as she receives more and more attention for her beauty and art. Soon, Lee is faced with advancing her own career at the cost of her relationship, or sacrificing success to keep the man she loves.
Scharer’s debut novel is a beautifully intimate reflection of love, art, and loss. Based on the real lives of Man Ray and Lee Miller and set mostly in the 1930’s, Scharer recaptured their love affair and how their careers intertwined. There is also a historical nod to the creative masterminds of the decade (Picasso, Hemingway, etc.), and also a touch on what it meant to be a war correspondent photographer during WWII (ie. Margaret Bourke-White). Though the love story is the central focus, art and it’s many outlets (photography, painting, and film) are heavily woven throughout the plot line. It’s absolutely lovely, like walking through a gallery yourself, with a touch of Vogue-meets-Gatsby glamour.
I absolutely enjoyed this read. It was refreshingly modern despite the historical context, and the character development is excellent. It’s a very mature read, and the relationship between Man and Lee could definitely fall into a toxic-bordering on -abuse category, so please consider that before reading. Otherwise, I would certainly recommend The Age of Light for those who love a romance, historical fiction, or artistic read, as well as fans of Paula Mclain’s novels. Debut author Whitney Scharer has made a new fan, and I look forward to reading her next novel.
Expected Publication Date: February 5, 2019
TL/DR: The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer is a debut historical fiction memoir about the love story between Man Ray and Lee Miller, two famous photographers from the 1930’s.
Read it? Yes, but it’ll be most appreciated by art lovers and mature audiences.
Recommend it? Yes for many reasons but only to specific mature, artistic audiences.
Buy it? If you love art, photography, and historical fiction, buy it. If not, borrow a copy, then decide after you’ve read it.
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