Book Club Questions for The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer

by Heather Caliendo
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The Age of Light by Whitney Scharer is one of those novels that stays with you long after you finish it. The following book club questions will have spoilers so if you haven’t read the novel yet, check out my preview and review first.

The story follows Lee when she’s arrived in Paris from New York—she’s tired of being photographed and is ready to become a photographer. A chance encounter leads her to the famous Surrealist Man Ray where she convinces him to take her on as his assistant and teach her everything he knows. The two work closely together and eventually their personal and professional lives become intimately entwined, changing the course of Lee’s life forever. Lee’s journey takes us from the cabarets of bohemian Paris to the battlefields of war-torn Europe during WWII, from discovering radical new photography techniques to documenting the liberation of the concentration camps as one of the first female war correspondents.

Let’s get into the book club questions.

  • The story opens with Lee living in a farm in Sussex with her husband Roland. It then jumps to Lee back in the ’30s when she’s arrived in Paris determined to be a photographer. How did knowing where Lee eventually ends up influence your opinion of her relationship with Man Ray? Why do you think the author chose to start the book at that point in Lee’s life?
  • Why was Lee so drawn to photography over other artistic endeavors?
  • The book mainly alternates between her time in Paris and as a WWII corespondent. Did you like the interweaving timelines? Why or why not?
  • Let’s talk about why Lee and Man Ray were so drawn to each other. For Lee, she seemed most attracted to his talent and to Man Ray, he seemed overall obsessed with her (but of course, very drawn to her looks). In what ways did they help each other but also hurt each other?
  • Lee’s talent starts to produce conflict between the two of them. Do you believe that Man Ray was threatened by her talent? Or do you think he believed that the man should always have the spotlight?
  • Let’s talk about the ways in which Lee was ahead of her time and a modern woman. And in what ways was Man Ray more traditional than Lee?
  • We eventually learn more about Lee’s past and her traumatic experience that happened to her as a child. We also learn distributing details about her relationship with her father that also ties to photography. How did her relationship with her father impact her relationships with men as an adult?
  • Lee finds out that Man Ray used one of her photographs to send to the Philadelphia Camera Society. Lee accuses him of stealing them but he says to her, “they’re as much as mine as yours.” Let’s talk about what he means by that.
  • Lee asks Man Ray what he sees when he looks at her. He answers a beautiful woman. She responds with:
  • “You don’t see me. You never have.” 

     In what ways was Man Ray blind to who Lee really was?

  • Why do you think Lee decided to become a war correspondent? Why couldn’t she get herself to eventually leave it behind after the war was finished?
  • In the epilogue, Lee and Man Ray meet again in the ’70s at a private exhibit that showcases both Man Ray and Lee’s work. She stops and ponders the words: a joint discovery: artists Man Ray and Lee Miller. While that’s all she wanted back in the ’30s, why does she say it holds little meaning to her now?
  • Do you think Lee and Man Ray remained in love this entire time? What do you think they said to each other when they meet again years later at the exhibit?
  • What are some of the major themes that stuck out to you once you finished?

Book club must-haves

With a large part of the book set in ’30s Paris, there’s lot of fun items you can get for it! First, here’s two cocktail recipes from the author’s website.

Here’s some fun party accessories:

Paris-themed paper straws:

You can purchase it on Amazon here.

Check out these gold glitter glasses:

You can purchase it on Amazon here.

Paris-themed napkins:

You can purchase it on Amazon here.

Have a fantastic book club meeting!

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