The Exhibitionists

Written by Russell James
Review by Fenella Miller

The Exhibitionists is an interesting fictional account of the lives of several famous Victorian artists: Turner, Holman Hunt, Rossetti, Millais and Hayden. These historical characters are interwoven with the lives of three fictional children.

The story begins in 1843 with Turner painting Parliament as it burns. On the same night a baby is tossed into the Thames in a basket, another child is abandoned at a baby farm, and a third is conceived out of wedlock.

James has created a cast of characters that the reader cares about and set them in a vividly described, historically accurate setting. The poverty and unhappiness experienced by many in this era is brought to life. This book is well written and impeccably researched.

However, the eccentric narrative style James adopts — he jumps from scene to scene and character to character, often mid-page — made this book, in my opinion, a somewhat confusing read.