My favorite bookshop is Fair Isle Books on Washington Island, Wisconsin. Though the size of a small bedroom, Fair Isle is everything a bookstore should be. Its petiteness in fact makes everything simpler—one doesn’t waste time browsing through books one needn’t bother to read.
Proprietor Deb Wayman once emailed to let me know a book I had ordered was in. I responded I would pick it up next time I was on Washington Island.
“No problem,” Deb replied, I’ll put it on the HFIC shelf with your name on it.
I thought HFIC might mean “Hold for Incoming Customer,” but learned from Deb it’s bookshop shorthand for Historical Fiction, a genre I like to read from time to time.
My book club selected Whitney Scharer’s THE AGE OF LIGHT a few months ago, and it generated lively discussion. The novel is about Lee Miller, fashion model, photographer, and artist, whose life and work were eclipsed by her more famous lover Man Ray.
As a lifelong art enthusiast I had heard of Surrealist Ray, but not Miller, and a big part of what the book is about is what the art world is for women artists as opposed to male ones—in this case in Paris during the 1930s.
Miller was a complex person, as we all are, her complexities partly put in motion by parents who didn’t protect her properly as a child. She was possessed of superior intellect, formidable talent, grit, and beauty, her beauty often distracting others from what lay beneath.
After her young years as Ray’s assistant and girlfriend, Miller was a WWII war correspondent for Vogue, documenting the London Blitz, the liberation of Paris, and concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau.
Without giving too much away, I’ll just say the members of my club (all women) were morally outraged by a particular instance of betrayal of Miller by Man Ray. The betrayal pertained not their relationship as lovers, but to Miller’s work. As we talked about it all of us became angry and had to top off our wine glasses in order to settle down.
Shearer’s book is well researched, well written. I recommend it!