Young PRB
by Elisabeth M. Lee
April Books

"He longed to be living in Paris, or Munich, and have a gang of like-minded friends who would build barricades, march in protests, print pamphlets, and proclaim against injustices. See what could happen if you just tried? If you were united in a cause, you could overthrow a government, expel foreign invaders, topple kings. It filled his daydreams and fed his art."

It's not hard to imagine Elisabeth Lee as she writes her coming-of-age novel, placing herself squarely in the midst of the nineteenth century and envisioning, perhaps even relishing, the world in which her young protagonists live. Young PRB transports us to mid-Victorian London where on the cusp of revolutionary change, young students William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, and John Everett Millais immerse themselves in their studies at the Royal Academy. They explore and imitate the art of the masters before them while their own youth beckons them to discover their true passion and new ventures.

As they compete with each other, trying desperately to please their instructors and win lucrative spots on the wall for their art exhibition, the three young men gradually form a friendship and discover amongst themselves common beliefs and interests. Their newfound friendship and shared dissatisfaction for the conformity in art binds them together and they create the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (PRB for short). Fueled by dreams and revolutions, the brotherhood allows them the opportunity to explore the art they are most passionate about and to freely blaze new paths with their own work. They daringly choose to present their works at the Royal Academy of Art but, to their dismay, the world rejects them. With nothing but criticism for their efforts, they are denied the passion and vision they hoped to inspire the world. Wounded and vulnerable, their friendship through the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood provides the support and kinship they need to overcome the harsh realities they reluctantly face in the emergence of their adulthood

Lee certainly knows her history and vividly brings to life the elegance of mid-Victorian London with a glimpse into the varied lives of these remarkable young men. She even offers her artistic talents, boasting a beautiful book cover with her own artwork and her website offers more of this gorgeous art to accompany excerpts from the novel. Once you begin reading, you know you're in the hands of an adept storyteller. Lovers of history, young and old, will no doubt appreciate and be illuminated by Lee's tale.

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