Lee Miller: A Life by Carolyn Burke - review by Caroline Moorehead

Caroline Moorehead

Back in Vogue

Lee Miller: A Life


Bloomsbury 448pp £20

When Lee Miller was twenty-one, a great beauty and a cover girl for American Vogue, she was photographed by Edward Steichen looking demure and elegant in a clinging silk dress, her short hair swept fashionably back and close to the head. Steichen sold the picture to Kotex, who used it as their first advertisement for sanitary towels. At first outraged, Miller soon laughed it off. At the end of the Twenties – ‘an American free spirit wrapped in the body of a Greek goddess’, as a friend described her – she was scornful of convention and in search of adventures. As Carolyn Burke portrays her in this new biography, she was a headstrong, ambitious and very talented young woman, the quintessential flapper of Zelda Fitzgerald’s definition: ‘you always know what she thinks, but she does the feeling alone’.

Born in Poughkeepsie in New York State in 1907, Elizabeth Miller was the only daughter of an engineer, inventor and keen amateur photographer whose hobby it was to photograph his child naked. At the age of seven, she was raped by a sailor friend of a woman in whose care

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