The Age of Light

A Novel


By Whitney Scharer

Formats and Prices




$22.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around October 22, 2019. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

One of the Best Books of the Year: Parade, Glamour, Real Simple, Refinery29, Yahoo! Lifestyle

Journey back to 1930's Paris with this
"startlingly modern love story and a mesmerizing portrait of a woman's self-transformation from muse to artist" (Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere), perfect for fans of the Netflix show Transatlantic and Beatriz Williams.

"I'd rather take a photograph than be one," Lee Miller 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. 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 of self-discovery takes took her from the cabarets of bohemian Paris to the battlefields of war-torn Europe during WWII, from inventing 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 stay true to herself while also fulfilling her artistic ambition–and what she will have to sacrifice to do so.


Surely all art is the result of one's having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end, where no one can go any further.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Part One


Farley Farm, Sussex, England

Hot July. The downs have greened up from the past week's rain and rise into the sky like mossy breasts. From the windows in Lee Miller's kitchen she sees hills in all directions. One straight gravel road. Stone walls made long before she got here that divide up the landscape and keep the sheep where they belong, calmly chewing. Her husband, Roland, with his walking stick, wends his way along the bridle path. He has two of their houseguests with him, and stops to point out a mole's burrow that could break an ankle, or a cowpat that might be a little too much country for some visitors.

Lee's herb garden is just outside the kitchen and about as far as she ever chooses to walk. Roland stopped asking her to join him on his constitutionals years ago, after she told him that until he puts a sidewalk on the downs and lines it with café bars, she's not going to be wasting her time tromping through the hillsides. Now she thinks he welcomes the time apart from her, as she does from him. Each time she watches him leave, the hand that's clenched around her throat loosens a little.

Of all the rooms at Farley Farm, the kitchen is where Lee is most content. Not happy, but content. No one goes in here without her, and if they did, they could never find what they were looking for. Spice jars teeter in uneven towers, pots in various states of filth cover the counter and fill the sink, containers of vinegar and oil stand open on the shelves. But Lee knows where everything is at every moment, just like she used to know in her studio, the clutter confounding to everyone except her. When Dave Scherman, her photography partner during the war, used to come into her room at the Hotel Scribe, he'd always have some cocky comment ready—"Ah, making an installation piece out of used petrol cans, are we, Lee?"—and she thinks of him when she's in her kitchen and wonders what he'd say to her now. Dave is one of the few of her war days friends who hasn't made the trek out here to see her. She's glad of it. The last time she saw him, back when they were all still living in London, Lee overheard Dave say to Paul Éluard that Lee had gotten fat and lost her looks and that not being pretty was making her angry. Which isn't true, of course. There is so much more that's making her angry than the stranger who greets her in the mirror each morning, burst blood vessels blooming across her puffy face.

Lee trained at the Cordon Bleu a few years ago, and now she makes multicourse dinners almost every weekend and writes about them for Vogue. She is the magazine's domestic correspondent. Before that she was its war correspondent, and before that she was its fashion correspondent, and before that she was its cover model. In 1927, an Art Deco sketch of her head, cloche pulled low like a helmet, ushered in an era of new modernism in women's fashion. A remarkable career, everyone always says. Lee never talks about those days.

Vogue is on Lee's mind because Audrey Withers, her editor, is coming to dinner tonight. Audrey is most likely coming to fire her and making the journey to Farley to do it in person. Lee would have fired herself long ago, after the twentieth missed deadline or the tenth familiar pitch about entertaining in a country home. She's loyal, though, Audrey, and the only fashion editor who ever tries to tell women about something more important than the latest trends in evening wear. Audrey will be buffered by some other guests: their friend Bettina, and Seamus, the Institute of Contemporary Arts' curator and Roland's right-hand man. Lee thinks that Audrey will not be able to fire her in front of Roland's friends. Maybe she can feel her out, turn things around, find her way back in.

Tonight's menu is a variation on one Lee has served before. Ten courses. Asparagus croûtes with hollandaise, scallop brochettes with sauce béarnaise, tots of vichyssoise, Penroses, mini toad-in-the-hole, Muddles Green Green Chicken, Gorgonzola with walnuts, beer-braised pheasant, a ginger ice, and bombe Alaska served flambé-style with the lights turned low. If Lee can't work for Audrey, she will kill her with butter and cream and rum-soaked meringue.

When Lee was reporting back from Leipzig and Normandy during the war, Audrey was often the only person she would contact. Lee sent her those first photos of Buchenwald, and Audrey ran them with the story Lee had pounded out on her little Hermes Baby, fueled by Benzedrine and brandy and rage. Audrey ran her words exactly as Lee had written them, with the headline "Believe It" and the photos full bleed, huge on the page in all their gruesome glory. Didn't care that somewhere in Sheffield a housewife turned from one shiny page advertising the latest Schiaparelli gloves to a bruised and beaten SS guard on the next, his nose broken and his pig's face covered in thick black blood.

It is noon and Lee starts on the Penroses, a dish she invented of thick closed mushrooms stuffed with piped pâté de foie gras and topped with paprika to look like the roses that grow at the edge of the herb garden. They are easy to do incorrectly, and the entire process takes hours. Roland often gets angry at her because she'll say dinner at eight and it will be nine, ten, eleven o'clock and all the guests will be tired and drunk by the time she brings out the first course. Lee shrugs him off. Once she made a grilled bluefish in homage to a Miró painting and even Roland agreed that it was worth the wait.

Tonight, though, Lee will be on time. She will emerge from the kitchen calm and regal, and dish after dish will reach the table like performers in a well-executed dance. There is magic to a multicourse meal, and on the best of days it reminds Lee of what it used to feel like to be in the darkroom, moving at exactly the right pace, no wasted effort.

Lee finishes the Penroses and leaves them on top of the icebox. Next she makes the hollandaise, more than they'll need, whisking the yolks with the lemon juice in a copper pot, the whisk ting-ting-tinging against the metal. Outside, Roland and the early guests crest a hill, following one behind the other like ducks in a little line, and then dip down into a valley and disappear from view.

What will Lee say to Audrey? She has ideas for articles, none of them good. She has apologies. These feel better, more genuine. It's been a rough few years, moving out here, only getting to London a few times a month, cut off from everything. But she knows her writing is still good. Her photos are still good. Or they would be if she could do them, if she could shrug off the stultifying sadness that she pulls around with her like a heavy cape. She will tell Audrey that she feels ready now. She will tell her that she moved the junk out of one of the bedrooms and set up her typewriter in there, the desk pushed up under a small square window with a view of the drive rolling out and away from the farm. Lee even snapped a photo, the first she's taken in months, framing the window inside the viewfinder, a view within a view, and tacked it up next to her desk. Audrey will like to know that Lee has made a picture. That she's sat there, running her fingers over the typewriter's dented sides, watching the chickens peck their way across the drive. When Audrey asks, Lee will offer her sharp incisive sketches of country living. She will give her anything she wants of this life of hers, on time, with photos if she can manage it.

By four o'clock Lee has prepped almost everything and set up her mise-en-place, the small bowls filled with chopped marjoram, sea salt, anchovies, cayenne, and all the other spices she'll need to make the meal. She adds an ice cube to her tumbler and goes into the dining room. There is a long pockmarked trestle table, big enough to hold twenty-four people. The fireplace at the end of the room calls to mind Henry VIII, roast suckling pigs, flagons of wine. Above it hangs Picasso's portrait of Lee, which has always been the image of herself she likes the best, the way he captured her gap-toothed smile. Around it are some of their favorite pieces from Roland's personal collection, crowded up against one another, Ernst next to Miró next to Turnbull. Over the years, they've mixed in some unknown Surrealist pieces as well: a taxidermied bird lying upside down on one of the frames, a railroad tie with a giant mouth painted on it, a doodle of a woman with wild tangled hair housed in one of the most ostentatious frames they could find. Lee sits down at the table. Her feet are starting to swell. She jiggles her tumbler a little, and the ice cubes dance in the whiskey.


Roland gets back from his walk at the same time that a low-slung Morris pulls up the drive, the loud engine growl alerting them to its arrival. He stands in the doorway to the kitchen—he often stands framed there on the threshold, never seeming to want to enter her domain.

"Good walk today," he says, rubbing his nose with his thin sculptor's fingers. "We saw a bull snake on the path. Must have been five, six feet long."

Lee nods, not looking at him directly, moving a long-handled spoon in the pot in which she boils potatoes.

"Smells good in here," he says, sniffing. "Garlicky."

"That'll be the chicken."

He sniffs again. "What time is Audrey arriving?"

"I think that's her now," Lee says calmly, as if she hasn't been on edge ever since she heard the tires crunching on the stone.

"Do you want to greet her or shall I?"

"You'd better." Lee gestures to the mess. "I'm in the middle of a dozen things here."

Roland takes a long look at her before he walks away.

The water is really boiling now, the steam rising up around Lee's face as she leans over it. The rule with potatoes: start with water cold from the tap and cover them with more liquid than you think you need. Make sure they have room to wiggle. If they touch, they'll get starchy. Lee boils them whole and cuts them while they're still steaming. Most people don't think enough about potatoes.

From the front of the house comes Roland's voice booming, "Audrey! Don't you know friends use the back door in Sussex?," and then Audrey's high, refined voice in response. Quickly, Lee refills her glass from the bottle she has tucked away behind the Weck jars. She hears their feet on the gravel again, going back out to the car, and then the screech and snap of the screen door, loud as a gunshot when they return. The noise sends an electric jolt up her spine and suddenly Lee is covered with a spreading panic, blackness like a hood. There is a scorched smell in the air and she worries something is burning, but she can't make herself move over to the oven to check. Her vision goes dark at the edges as it always does when this happens, and even with her eyes open she is back there, Saint-Malo this time, her shirt soaked with sweat, crouched in the vault, the muscles of her thighs seizing up as she waits for the echo of the bombs to fade away.

She cannot stop the thoughts from coming. They lodge like bits of shrapnel in her brain and she never knows when something will bring one to the surface. This time, when Lee returns to the present, she finds herself huddled in the corner of the kitchen clutching her knees to her chest. She gets to her feet unsteadily and feels relieved that no one has seen her this way.

The glass is the thing. She picks it up, puts it against her forehead so she can feel how cold it is, takes one shaky swallow and then another. The timer dings. Lee startles again, tries to compose herself, digs a potato out of the pot, and tests it with her teeth, so hot she pulls back sharply and it falls with a soggy thump to the tile floor. Another swallow from her glass, the panic growing, the room around her bending and twisting like the reflection of her face in the pot's copper surface, and she wants to abandon the meal and go upstairs to her office, where she can look out at the sheep again, everything neat and orderly, the same as it was hundreds of years before they moved here.

She is almost out of the room, moving toward the back stairs, when she hears Audrey's voice.

"Lee!" Audrey walks through the kitchen door with her arms outstretched, a smile on her face. "This is where the magic happens. I've seen your pictures but it's so much more fun to see it in reality."

Audrey looks the same: tiny, immaculate, a fresh silk scarf tied in a bow around her neck. She has dyed blond hair that she still wears in pin curls, perfectly acceptable teeth that make her look a bit like a badger, and a habit of wearing corsages to work. She wears one now. Corsages aside, Audrey is the least vain person Lee has ever met, and that's quite an achievement for someone who's worked in fashion for over thirty years. Lee sets down her drink, rubs her hands on the towel she has folded into her apron's waistband, and holds out her arms. They squeeze each other tightly and Lee feels as if someone is blowing up a balloon inside her chest, pushing away the panic and making room in her. She has forgotten how much she loves Audrey.

They pull away from each other and Lee watches Audrey taking in the kitchen. She looks at the mess, she looks at Lee's glass on the counter, she looks—quickly, trying not to let Lee see the look—at Lee's housecoat, her snarled hair, the lumps of her heavy body. Lee sees herself through Audrey's eyes and it's not attractive, but Audrey has enough tact to move her gaze across the room.

"Are those the famous Penrose mushrooms?" she asks, pointing to the icebox. "November nineteen sixty-one. We got so many letters about them."

"In the flesh," Lee says. She's set down her tumbler, out of sight behind a bowl of lettuces, but keeps glancing at it. The panic is back, thick and suffocating, and she closes her eyes to force it away.

"Audrey," she says finally, gesturing to a chair, "please sit. Make yourself comfortable. Can I get you something to drink?"

"Oh, I'm sure you're much too busy to entertain me while you cook! Roland offered to give me a tour, but I wanted to say hello as soon as I got here." She comes back over to where Lee is standing and gives her another quick squeeze, her eyes kind.

Lee feels relief and doesn't try to stop Audrey as she leaves the room. With shaking hands she picks up her glass again and finishes her drink in one huge swallow that makes her eyes water. When the tears spill over, she lets them fall.


Nine o'clock and Lee is not done cooking. The guests are in the parlor. She hears the sound of their voices rising and falling, laughter, the clink of wineglasses. Roland has come back to the kitchen several times, saying in a low hiss that "they are waiting, they are hungry, do you have an estimate on when it might be ready?" Lee tells him no. They can wait, even Audrey, and it will be worth it.

Part of the trouble is that she's kept right on drinking, the extra bottle behind the Weck jars empty now and replaced with one she ferreted away in the back of the pantry. She's drunk so much that for once she can feel it: her nose gone numb and her fingers slick as sticks of butter. It is just so easy to keep topping up her glass, and there's no way to know how many times she's done it. Drinking makes her forget that Audrey is her lifeline to all she used to care about in the world: photography, writing, her old beautiful self. When Lee can fight off the urge to just curl up in bed and fall asleep forever, she wants to be the person she used to be, alive and hungry. But every time she hears Audrey's voice from the other room, that posh London accent, she keeps picking up her glass for one more swallow.

At nine thirty the asparagus is on a bed of lettuce with hollandaise drizzled across the platter. Lee picks it up and pushes through the swinging door to the dining room. From the adjacent parlor, the group quiets when they see her. Someone—Seamus, maybe, from the ICA—says, "Brilliant! I'm starving," and they all come into the dining room. Roland shows them where to sit—this is one of his talents, putting the right people next to one another at a dinner party—and then he comes over to her and takes the platter and sets it on the sideboard. Janie is there, the house girl, whose life Lee makes miserable by rarely letting her in the kitchen, and the girl serves the asparagus and then everyone looks at Lee where she's still standing by the door.

"Join us, darling," Roland says, indicating her place at the end of the table nearer the kitchen.

"More to do," she says, backing toward the door and wondering idly if she's slurring before deciding she doesn't really care.

"Sit, Lee," Audrey says. "You've been on your feet all day!"

Audrey's right. Lee's feet are aching. She takes off her apron and finds her seat and someone, not Roland, fills her wineglass, and the conversation begins again in fits and starts as people lift the shining asparagus stalks to their mouths and start exclaiming about how good they taste.

They eat and drink and it is not too daunting. Audrey is involved in a long exchange with Bettina about a spring fashion show she just saw. The new look was geometric cutouts, cropped jackets, sheath suits. After a while, Bettina turns to Lee and says, "You've always had such a good eye. What do you think of the new Yves Saint Laurent?"

Lee laughs. "Betts, I gave up on all that when I realized how comfortable my army uniform was—you know that. Now it's just trousers and housecoats for me."

Roland looks at her. He, like Audrey, knew her when she was modeling, when she could spot a dress from across the room and tell you the designer and the material and the season. That, too, is behind her, and good riddance. If women knew how comfortable army pants were, they'd all be wearing them. During Lee's last visit to Vogue, she cornered a few young models in the lift and told them how liberating it was to wear men's pants and not to stuff one's feet into the equivalent of Chinese finger traps. One of them recognized her.

"You're Lee Miller, aren't you?" the girl asked. She towered over Lee—it seemed every year the models got taller—and something about the question annoyed her. In it was Audrey's prompting: "Be kind to Lee. She's not the same since—Those things she saw—She was in Germany when they opened up the camps. Horrible, really. We never should have sent her." So when this girl recognized Lee, the devil in her came out.

"Lee Miller?" Lee said, leaning in so close she could see the girl's pores, the fuzz of plaque clinging to her straight white teeth. "I heard she died." The girl looked shocked and then the lift doors opened and Lee got out, the untied laces of her boots slapping along with her as she continued down the hall.

And here Lee is at dinner in boots too, the shirt she has on, formerly covered by her apron, tucked haphazardly into her trousers, with Audrey and Bettina and Roland staring awkwardly, the fashion conversation at a standstill.

To break the silence Lee gets the vichyssoise, which she serves in earthenware tots she and Roland picked up in Bath years ago. Janie helps serve, and Lee shows her what to do so that she can bring out the next few courses, which are prepped and ready when they want them. Each trip to the kitchen is an excuse for more whiskey, though, so Lee doesn't want Janie to do too much.

Finally, after the scallops and the chicken and the pheasant—all of it as perfect as Lee has imagined it would be, if not as timely—the conversation turns to Roland's work and gossip about the ICA and the latest exhibition troubles. Seamus's voice rises above them all, pontificating. Why do fat men always love the sound of their own voices? Lee and Audrey are the only people at the table not connected to the museum, so soon they stop listening and Audrey turns sideways in her chair and says, "Lee?"

Lee is ready—she has been ready—and says, "I have so many ideas, Audrey. Truly. I'm writing again. No more boondoggling."

Audrey sits back. Looks surprised. "That's wonderful!"

"I was thinking about that fish dinner I made—you remember, I told you about it? The bluefish? Why not write a piece about art and cooking? Or I could do a piece about foraging. People bring me things, things you probably wouldn't know you could eat—fiddlehead ferns and different types of mushrooms—a whole piece on that, with photos to match."

Lee really is slurring now, she can feel it, the words coming from her mouth like puzzle pieces spilling out of a box. Audrey lifts her glass, her wedding band gleaming in the candlelight. In her eyes Lee sees the emotions she expected to see there, pity and embarrassment, her glance sliding away as if she doesn't really want to be seeing her.

"Lee," Audrey says, "there's something I want to ask you."

Lee moves to stand up. "I should—I need to serve the next course."

Audrey puts her hand on Lee's wrist. "It can wait. Roland and I had a nice long chat when he gave me a tour this afternoon, about something that's been on my mind for months. I want you to write a piece—well, Roland and I want you to write a piece—about your years with Man Ray. A feature. Thirty-five-hundred words. Some of his photos from that time. We think it would do you good to have a big project to focus on. It can go in the February issue. You could interview him if you want, or you could just write it from your perspective, your memories. Our readers will love it. The woman's touch. They've come to love you over the years through all the cooking pieces."

Lee looks at Roland, who studiously avoids meeting her eye. His shoulders are hitched up to his earlobes and he has that same penitent beagle look on his face that he gets when Lee is yelling at him.

They've come to love you through all the cooking pieces. All the fluff Lee's submitted to Audrey over the past few years, the portrait they commissioned of her in her herb garden, dressed in a goddamn gingham apron. And they do love her! They send her letters. Dear Mrs. Penrose, I'm a homemaker in Shropfordshire and I tried your trifle last night. What a success! All my guests are still exclaiming over it.

Today when Lee was in the kitchen measuring out fenugreek, Roland and Audrey must have been discussing her, cooking up a plan to get her to reengage, come back to herself, do something worth doing.

"I don't want to," Lee says finally, her tone petulant even to her own ears.

"Why not?" Audrey looks sympathetic.

Lee reaches for her glass and Audrey's expression hardens. Without letting her answer, Audrey says, "It will be good for you, Lee. A story with some meat to it. A story only you can tell."

"I don't want to, Audrey."

"Lee…I don't know how to say it…but it's this, or we'll have to renegotiate your contract."

She knew the words were coming but it doesn't hurt any less to hear them.

"I'm writing again, truly, Audrey."

"Then write this. This is what we need. We can't have…We're moving away from the domestic section, actually."

Just then Janie comes over to Lee and whispers in her ear, "Should I serve the dessert, ma'am?"

"No, no—I'll manage it, Janie," Lee says.

As the door to the kitchen swings shut behind her, Lee grabs the first clean glass she sees, one of her mother's teacups with a delicate rose spray pattern, and goes immediately to the Weck jars. The teacup rattles in its saucer as she fills it, so she sets down the saucer and holds the cup in both hands, gulping the whiskey so the fumes rise up and burn her nose.

An article about her time with Man Ray. With photos to match. Lee could tell the story again the way she's always told it: "I met Man Ray in a bar on his way to Biarritz. I asked him if I could be his student and he told me he didn't take students. So I told him I was going with him, and before the train pulled into Biarritz we were in love." 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. And why couldn't it be true? Lee was beautiful enough then to get what she wanted exactly when she wanted it, and there are photos of her in Biarritz with Man, her head tipped back to catch the sun, skin creamy as the inside of a seashell. Lee could assemble an entire history from the photos that would tell any version of the story she wants. But back then, that first summer in Paris, she didn't yet know the power of pictures, how a frame creates reality, how a photograph becomes memory becomes truth.

Or Lee could 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? It's this story that she's locked up tight inside herself, this story that she was thinking about when she hid all her old prints and negatives in the attic, this story that makes the delicate teacup tremble in her hands.


Lee takes a final swallow and sets the empty cup atop the pile in the sink. She calls to Janie, and together they carry the bombe Alaska to the table and set it in the middle of the group, and with a theatrical flourish, Lee pours the pitcher of rum over it and takes one of the long taper matches and sets it on fire, and the flames are instantaneous, hot and blue, rising up almost to the chandelier. Everyone gasps and claps loudly, and Lee forgets for a minute how sad Audrey has made her, just stands there and enjoys watching the alcohol burn.

After the cake is cut and everyone is served, Lee sits back down next to Audrey.

"When would you need it by?" Lee asks her, and watches as Audrey's face moves from surprise to pleasure.

"I'd want to see a first draft by October."


  • "Scharer's debut is a rivetingly sexy snapshot of the duo's real-life relationship as it morphs from apprenticeship to partnership to tumultuous love affair."—Kim Hubbard, People
  • "The glittering bohemia of 1930s Paris, the pastoral boredom of mid-'60s Sussex, the hollowed-out carnage of postwar Europe; all come equally alive on the page, as do iconic figures like Ray and Cocteau and Kiki de Montparnasse. But none breathe more vividly than Miller herself: Fiercely independent but racked by self-doubt, desperate for affection and approval even as she chafed at sentiment, she spent decades fighting to find her voice. It was worth the wait."

    Entertainment Weekly
  • "Like Paris in the 1930s, Sharer's first novel is a radiant clash of romance and reality"—O, the Oprah Magazine
  • "She joins such novelists as Paula McLain ("The Paris Wife") and Rupert Thomson ("Never Anyone but You") in a most worthy enterprise: repopulating male-dominated accounts of the past with the many noteworthy women who deserve the same limelight."—Donna Rikfind, Washington Post
  • "Scharer...skillfully renders an electric version of the city, pulling the reader into the opulence and mystery of the era."—Annabel Gutterman, Time
  • "An absolutely gorgeous and feminist novel about art, love, and ownership, The Age of Light is truly a work of art in itself, both deeply moving and thrilling. Want to know what it's like to be an artist? Read this astonishing novel and then, like Lee Miller, take time to consider the extraordinary cost she paid to be herself."—Caroline Leavitt, Boston Globe
  • "Is "woman behaves dangerously, lives wildly" a genre? If so, The Age of Light is its latest poster child. The novel is work of historical fiction about Lee Miller, a Vogue model who became one of the first female war correspondents. In Scharer's plot, Miller travels to Paris where she meets photographer Man Ray, who becomes her collaborator and lover. While most stories about Miller paint her as Ray's muse, this one portrays her as the independent and daring artist she truly was."—Glamour
  • Scharer's debut is both engrossing and cinematic, a must for readers who enjoy a fictional peek into the lives of real-life artists.—Library Journal
  • "Scharer sets her viewfinder selectively, focusing on her heroine's insecurities as much as her accomplishments as an artist; her hunger to be more than "a neck to hold pearls, a slim waist to show off a belt" is contrasted with her habit of solving problems by simply leaving. The price for Lee is steep, but it makes for irresistible reading. Sexy and moving."—Kirkus, starred review
  • "Scharer's intoxicating first novel...bring[s] a stunning chiaroscuro effect to the saga of a woman transforming herself into an artist."—Booklist, starred review
  • "Scharer's stellar debut chronicles the tumultuous working and romantic relationships of photographer Man Ray and model-turned-photographer Lee Miller in early 1930s Paris...This brilliant portrayal of the complicated couple features a page-turning story and thrillingly depicts the artistic process."—Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • "Rapturous and razor sharp all at once, The Age of Light fearlessly unzips anything we might know of Lee Miller as model and muse and recasts her as artist, free thinker and architect of a singular and unapologetic life. Whitney Scharer is a stunning new discovery. This novel sparks on every page."—Paula McLain, New York Times bestselling author of The Paris Wife and Love and Ruin
  • "Whitney Scharer's storytelling is utterly immersive and gorgeous in its details, transporting you into Lee Miller's life, and her struggles to be taken seriously in a man's world. This is a powerful, sensual and gripping portrait of the forging of an artist's soul."—Madeline Miller, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Circe and Song of Achilles
  • "In incandescent prose, Whitney Scharer has created an unforgettable heroine discovering her passion, her independence, and her art-and what she must sacrifice to have them. Sweeping from the glamour of 1920s Paris through the battlefields of World War II and into the war's long shadow, The Age of Light is a startlingly modern love story and a mesmerizing portrait of a woman's self-transformation from muse into artist."—Celeste Ng, New York Times bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere
  • "An extraordinary young woman discovers love and art and betrayal among the artists of 1930s Paris and documents the horrors of war through her singular camera lens. An uplifting, heartbreaking and altogether immersive read."—Helen Simonson, New York Times bestselling author of The Summer Before the War and Major Pettigrew's Last Stand
  • "The Age of Light is a bold, intimate and gorgeous novel-at once a vivid romp through the salons and parties of the Paris art world in the 1930s and a breathtaking close up of a woman battling to be both muse and artist, lover and collaborator, and above all, herself. This is a relevant, utterly enthralling debut from a talented writer who understands the complex intersection of ambition and femininity. I was swept off my feet."—Jessica Shattuck, New York Times bestselling author of The Woman in the Castle and The Hazards of Good Breeding
  • "When I first read The Age of Light, I thought it might have been written expressly for me, since it has everything I love in it: photography, sex, love, war, 1920s Paris, a relationship struggle between two artists, a woman's journey from model to photographer, and the most exquisite writing. Then I realized: this magnetic, addictive novel will beguile every reader. Read it, read it!"—Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Lost Family
  • "A masterpiece, The Age of Light is a searing, evocative novel of love and war, and a woman's fierce determination to transcend her role as muse and remake the world through her own art. Whitney Scharer is a remarkably gifted storyteller - a major new voice in historical fiction."—Dawn Tripp, bestselling author of Georgia and Game of Secrets
  • "Scharer's scrupulous research and dazzling prose fuse to create a captivating portrait of the little-known - but now unforgettable - Lee Miller, whose exceptional beauty, bold conviction, and rare talent disrupted the male-centric art scene of 1920's Paris."—Georgia Hunter, New York Times bestselling author of We Were the Lucky Ones

On Sale
Oct 22, 2019
Page Count
400 pages
Back Bay Books

Whitney Scharer

About the Author

Whitney Scharer earned her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Washington, and her short fiction has appeared in the Bellevue Literary Review, Cimarron Review, and other journals. She’s received an Emerging Artist Award in Literature from the St. Botolph Club Foundation, a Somerville Arts Council Artists grant, and been awarded a residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. The Age of Light is her first novel.

Learn more about this author