The Age of Light – Book Review

This book is an interesting work of fiction because its main characters are based on real people. Parts of their lives have been put together by the author, Whitney Scharer’s, imagination. I didn’t know this until I had completed the book and began to do some research into the author. I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of reimagining peoples lives but, many of Scharer’s readers seemed to like it.

A little bit about the book…

The book begins in 1966 in England with the main character, Lee Miller and her husband Roland, living in the countryside. At the time, Miller is writing cooking pieces for Vogue. She writes about her cooking methods and photographs each step of her cooking process. This is where it becomes evident that Lee Miller is a skilled photographer. Miller is very unhappy in her current life, and you even begin to wonder, because of her attitude and drinking, if she has always been unhappy.

As the first part of the book continues, we are introduced to many new characters, including her editor at Vogue, Audrey Withers. Withers asks Miller to write a new piece focusing on her time in Paris working with the famous photographer, Man Ray. Immediately Miller refuses but quickly realizes that she doesn’t have much choice if she wants to continue working for Vogue. Miller lists some stipulations for the piece and then accepts.

It is at this point that Miller began her story, beginning in Paris 1929. She moves to Paris to begin her photography career and eventually meets and falls in love with Man Ray. This romance is a whirlwind from the very beginning. Man Ray was much older than Lee Miller, which isn’t surprising once you understand the relationship Miller has with her father. She begins her career as Man Ray’s assistant, learning from his photography skills. However, as their romance begins and she continues to be Man Ray’s assistant, she begins to fear her own photography career is becoming secondary to Man Ray. It also becomes clear that their relationship was turning destructive. As the relationship grew, Ray became much more controlling, and his obsession with Miller becomes very concerning. For these reasons and many others, the love story in the book didn’t captivate me.

Scharer also includes short stories about Miller’s childhood. Miller experienced a very traumatic sexual assault when she was very young, by a trusted family member. This event, plus her parents’ reactions to the event, I believe, impacts the way Miller views most of her sexual encounters. I also felt like this experience influenced her relationship with Man Ray. Showing how these traumatic events hurt the victims for almost their entire lives.

Would I recommend the book?

Unfortunately, I didn’t really enjoy this book. I didn’t find myself connecting with the main character Lee Miller. I also felt there was no closure with this book’s ending, and I found myself wondering what the book was really about. Scharer also included information about Miller’s life during World War II and those events were never really connected to her current life or to her life in Paris. In the end, I wasn’t sure why they were even included. Also, I never felt like I understood why Miller was so obviously unhappy in her current life with her husband.

Overall I don’t think I would recommend this book to my peers but, if you disagree or have any additional comments comment below!

My Life in France- Book Review

By Julia Child and Alex Prud’Homme

My connection to this book:

This book is written by Julia Child and her nephew Alex Prud’Homme. I began reading this book because I was about to move my family from Canada to an entirely different continent, Europe. I was very nervous about this move and a bit worried about what I would do without my family, friends and my job.  My sister bought me this book, the story of how Julia Child moved to Paris, France,for her husband’s work. She thought it would be an excellent book to read to prepare me for living abroad.

Although the book was a very good read, it didn’t do much in preparing me for our big move. Child discusses how she wasn’t very close with her father and that her mother passed away years before. Child was also very thrilled for the opportunity to live in Paris full time. So I learned pretty quickly that our stories didn’t really line up. However, I decided to keep reading because it was an interesting biography of a successful woman.

Book break down and my review:

This book discusses Child’s life beginning with the meeting of her husband, Paul. The book then maps out her life in Paris and her path to becoming one of the most well-known chefs. Child discusses how her culinary journey in French food began and how she later made it into a cooking empire. Her story is very awe-inspiring and quite fascinating, especially as a woman during that time. Her entrepreneurial skills, which she discusses in this book, can be transferred into any career. Therefore, for any women looking to begin a new career, I would highly recommend this book.

There are some topics that I found difficult to get through. Sometimes she goes into a bit too much detail about her recipes and the specific ways she cooks. I don’t have a significant interest in cooking, so I found those sections to be a bit difficult to focus on. There were some paragraphs I skimmed or read over because it focused too much on the break down of her recipe. However, if you are someone who is looking to learn more about French cooking, than those parts of the book would be great for you!