Ever wondered what it would be like to work alongside one of the most accomplished artists in history? To learn from them? To serve as a muse, even? Based on the real life story of photographer Lee Miller and her love affair with artist Man Ray, The Age of Light is the story of a woman bound in love and desire and her journey in forging her own path in discovering what it means to create meaningful art.


A young model and great beauty, Lee Miller leaves her modeling career in New York to create her own art in Paris. Unsure of herself and her place in the world, Lee dabbles in the not-yet-established art of photography, finding that she prefers being behind the camera rather than in front of it. Through wild friends at a wilder party, Lee meets Man Ray, the already well-known artist and photographer. Lee convinces Man to hire her as his assistant so that she can learn by his side. The pair are drawn to one another, and it isn’t long before Lee becomes more than Man’s assistant, falling into the roles of lover and muse.

Though Man is quite a bit older than Lee, the pair seem to be made for each other. Lee easily settles into her new life in Paris and her position in Man’s studio. Lee falls in love with photography and with Man, though it is unclear which she loves more. Lee and Man work together creating ground-breaking photographs, even discovering new and innovative techniques for developing film. Lee learns a lot under Man’s tutelage, while at the same time developing her own unique vision for her art.

Lee sets off on a mission to discover her own artistic spirit, opening her own studio and photographing for Vogue. At the start of World War II, Lee steps in to serve as a war correspondent, photographing in concentration camps, one of only a few women to do so. Art and love, love and art. How do they help each other, how do they war against one another? Are two artists too much for one relationship? Can Lee and Man continue to create together, or will ego win out in the end? Lee must decide whether she will fight for love or fight to forge her own path.

Why I Loved It

This novel is rich in scenes of many art forms, including ballet and dance, painting and drawing, and photography and film. Artists gather together at the salon to share their work and have important philosophical conversations. The artists are serious about their work and its impact— perhaps a little too serious at times. Sex plays a large role in Lee’s life and on the page. Bodies are frequently used as elements of expression in Lee’s and Man’s art.

Lee discovers that action photography, the art of capturing a fleeting moment in real time, stirs her heart more deeply than that in the staged studio. This story is woven through multiple timelines, giving the reader a clearer picture of Lee’s heart and impact. A great beauty and all-around badass, Lee Miller makes a complex and compelling main character.

To be honest, I had never heard of Lee Miller or Man Ray before reading this book. But you best believe this novel inspired in me a research binge of great proportions. I searched online for every photo mentioned in the story, as well as confirmation as to whether particular details in the novel were true. I am deeply intrigued by Lee Miller and her heart, which shines brightly through her work. I fell in love with her.

Is This Novel for You?

This novel is full of gorgeous paradoxes: somehow both serious and light-hearted, sexy and subdued, beautiful and gritty. If you enjoy true stories of strong, complex women, this novel is for you.

Thank you for reading this review of Whitney Scharer’s The Age of Light. To keep up with all of my book reviews, join my email newsletter below.

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No joke.