The Janus Gate – Review

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The Janus Gate by Douglas Rees

Age: 13 +

The Janus Gate is part of the Art Encounters Series by Watson-Guptill publications. This title features John Singer Sargent and his particularly haunting painting, The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit. Using this picture as the basis of the story, Rees takes us through a psychological horror story of demons, dolls and lunacies surrounding the four sisters and their neurotic and unhinged mother. While their father is away on a business trip to Boston, Sargent is commissioned to paint a portrait of the daughters Boit and one very ugly doll named Papau. What Sargent paints is a mystery that some comes to life, engulfing him and the girls, unless he can find a way to break the spell.

This is the painting:

Creepy right?

When Sargent first met the family on Varnishing Day in 1880, the daughters were full of life, laughter and happiness. Based on the picture, you’d think I was lying. During the time between Varnishing Day and the day Sargent met with the Boits to start painting the girls, they had changed, grew darker and more inward. Florence would only speak in rhymes, while Jane would act-out in fits of brattiness. Mary and Julia, the youngest Boits, remained silent, stubborn and scared.

The book is just the right amount of creepy for the age group. Its neither too simple nor too complex, my only wish is that the book was longer so that Rees could flesh out the characters and the evil in the story a little more. I loved the connection to art, and bringing art and artists to life. I think both younger kids and teens will enjoy this supernatural gothic tale, and it works as a good springboard for future readers of the Libba Bray title, A Great and Terrible Beauty as well as Tracey Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring.

The Janus Gate: An Encounter with John Singer Sargent
by Douglas Rees
Watson-Guptill Publications, 2006
ISBN 0823004066
162 pages


Find this book at your local library

The Janus gate : an encounter with John Singer Sargent

One response to “The Janus Gate – Review

  1. That is an awesome story line! It’s too funny because when I studied this in art history, it was more quaint because not many painters spent their time and effort painting children being children. But with this story line the painting does seem sinister. Thanks for the review!

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