The Pre-Raphaelite Society is bringing their book club to Twitter! This is exciting news and I’m honored to be a part of it.  I hope you will read along with us and join in on what promises to be a great discussion.  I am especially happy that using a venue like Twitter will help open the book club to people all over the world who share a love for both Pre-Raphaelite art and books.  Feel free to join in by using the hashtag #PRSbook.  Our first discussion will be Sunday, 15 January, from 9 am to 9pm BST and Central US time, meaning you can join in no matter where you are. We are reading Possession by A. S. Byatt (available on Amazon UK and US).

We would love to hear from you and welcome your suggestions on book selections.  Below is our working list of books we are considering for discussion.

Violet: The Story of the Irrepressible Violet Hunt and Her Circle by Barbara Belford– “Drawing on newly discovered diaries and other papers in which the intrigues of the drawing room, ballroom, and bedroom are meticulously described, Barbara Belford has written an absorbing biography of a fascinating, strong-willed woman who lived years ahead of her time.”
Possession by A. S. Byatt– “Possession is an exhilarating novel of wit and romance, at once a literary detective novel and a triumphant love story. It is the tale of a pair of young scholars investigating the lives of two Victorian poets.”
The Last Pre-Raphaelite: Edward Burne-Jones and the Victorian Imagination by Fiona MacCarthy- “The most admired British artist of his generation, he was a leading figure with Oscar Wilde in the aesthetic movement of the 1880s, inventing what became a widespread ‘Burne-Jones look’. The bridge between Victorian and modern art, he influenced not just his immediate circle but artists such as Klimt and Picasso.”
The Rossettis in Wonderland by Dinah Roe- “The exiled Italian poet Gabriele Rossetti arrived in London in 1824 with a few letters of introduction, little money and less English. But within one generation, he would bequeath his new city with a remark- able cultural legacy through the accomplishments of his children. There was the poet and Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel, the poet and religious thinker Christina, the nun and Dante Alighieri scholar Maria, and William, who combined a life of English letters with a successful career in finance.”
My Grandfather, His Wives and Loves by Diana Holman-Hunt- “This is the story of the first fifty years of Holman-Hunt’s private life[…]”
The Renaissance Studies in Art and Poetry by Walter Pater- “Walter Pater is increasingly being referred to by modern critics as an important precursor of modernist aesthetic theory. His study, The Renaissance, was also very influential in its own day, particularly on the work of Oscar Wilde who described it as ‘my golden book…the very flower of decadence’”
Into The Frame: The Four Loves of Ford Madox Brown by Angela Thirlwell- “Madox Brown, who grew up in France and Belgium before he came to England and won fame with paintings like ‘The Last of England’, was always an outsider, and the women he loved also burst out of stereotypes. His two wives, Elisabeth Bromley and Emma Hill, and his secret passions, the artist Marie Spartali and the author Mathilde Blind, were all remarkable personalities, from very different backgrounds.”
A Pre-Raphaelite Journey: The Art of Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale by Pamela Gerrish Nunn- “Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale (1872-1945) was an accomplished painter, illustrator and designer whose artistic life bridged the Victorian and modern worlds. Her work was much influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite artists whose love of detail, colour, symbolism, storytelling and nature was so hugely influential on mid Victorian Britain.”
Mortal Love by Elizabeth Hand– “In the Victorian Age, a mysterious and irresistible woman becomes entwined in the lives of several artists, both as a muse and as the object of all-consuming obsession. Radborne Comstock, one of the early twentieth century’s most brilliant young painters, is helpless under her dangerous spell. In modern-day London, journalist Daniel Rowlands meets a beguiling woman who holds the secret to invaluable — and lost — Pre-Raphaelite paintings, while wealthy dilettante-actor Valentine Comstock is consumed by enigmatic visions.”
Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers- “Adelaide McKee, a former prostitute, arrives on the doorstep of veterinary doctor John Crawford, a man she met once seven years earlier and the father of her only child, long presumed dead. She has recently learned that the girl lives – but her life and soul are sought by a ghostly vampire. And this is no ordinary spirit; the bloodthirsty wraith is that of John Polidori, Lord Byron’s doctor…”
Desperate Romantics: The Private Lives Of The Pre Raphaelites by Franny Moyle- “Their Bohemian lifestyle and intertwined love affairs shockingly broke 19th Century class barriers and bent the rules that governed the roles of the sexes. The influential critic, writer and artist John Ruskin was their father figure and his apostles included the painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the designer William Morris. The saga is brought to life through the vivid letters and diaries kept by the group and the accounts written by their contemporaries.”
Pre-Raphaelites in Love by Gay Daly- “A portrait of the Pre-Raphaelites and the women they loved and painted. It describes the scandals, betrayed lovers, secret dalliances, endless engagements, stormy marriages and suicides that affected this group.”
Lizzie Siddal by Lucinda Hawksley- “Saved from the drudgery of a working-class existence by a young Pre-Raphaelite artist, Lizzie Siddal rose to become one of the most famous faces in Victorian Britain and a pivotal figure of London’s artistic world, until tragically ending her young life in a laudanum-soaked suicide in 1862.”
The Dreaming Damozel by Mollie Hardwick- “This is the sixth murder mystery to involve the Abbotsbourne ex-vicar and wife team of crime solvers, Doran and Rodney Chelmarsh. The novel begins with the discovery of a corpse floating in the river like the drowned Ophelia.”
Sleep, Pale Sister by Joanne Harris- Sleep, Pale Sister, a powerful, atmospheric and blackly gothic evocation of Victorian artistic life, was originally published before Joanne Harris achieved worldwide recognition with Chocolat.Henry Chester, a domineering and puritanical Victorian artist, is in search of the perfect model. In nine-year-old Effie he finds her. Ten years later, lovely, childlike and sedated, Effie seems the ideal wife. But something inside her is about to awaken.”
The Stones of Venice by John Ruskin- “John Ruskin, Victorian England’s greatest writer on art and literature, believed himself an adopted son of Venice, and his feelings for this city are exquisitely expressed in The Stones of Venice. This edition contains Ruskin’s famous essay “The Nature of Gothic,” a marvelously descriptive tour of Venice before its postwar restoration.”
Ivy by Julie Hearn- “The only beautiful thing in Ivy’s drab life is her glorious red hair. At a young age, her locks made her the target of Carroty Kate, a ‘skinner’. She recruited Ivy to help her coax wealthy children away from their nannies so that she could strip them of their clothes – clothes worth a fortune in the markets of Petticoat Lane. It is years before Ivy escapes and finds her way back to her in-laws. Once there, she finds respite in laudanum. But before she can settle into a stupor and forget the terrible things she has done, Ivy is spotted by a wealthy pre-Raphaelite painter. ”
Pre-Raphaelites at Home by Pamela Todd- “Pamela Todd turns her attention to the fiery group of young artists, designers and thinkers, led by the charismatic figure of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, which, in 1848, came together as the semi-secret Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.”
Effie: The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray, John Ruskin and John Everett Millais by Suzanne Fagence Cooper- “The scandalous love triangle at the heart of the Victorian art world. Effie Gray, a Scottish beauty, was the heroine of a great Victorian love story. Married at nineteen to John Ruskin, she found herself trapped in a loveless and unconsummated union. When her husband invited his protégé John Everett Millais away on holiday, Effie and Millais fell in love.”
Victorian Poetry: Poetry, Poets and Politics by Isobel Armstrong- “In a comprehensive and theoretically astute study, Armstrong rescues Victorian poetry from its images as a `moralised form of romantic verse’ and unearths its often subversive critique of nineteenth-century culture and politics.”
The Pre-Raphaelites: From Rossetti to Ruskin by Dinah Roe- “The Pre-Raphaelite Movement began in 1848, and experienced its heyday in the 1860s and 1870s. Influenced by the then little-known Keats and Blake, as well as Wordsworth, Shelley and Coleridge, Pre-Raphaelite poetry ‘etherialized sensation’ (in the words of Antony Harrison), and popularized the notion ofl’art pour l’art – art for art’s sake.”