A Reese's Bookclub December Pick
An Instant Sunday Times, New York Times and Irish Times Bestseller (August 2022)
A Guardian and LitHub Book of the Year (December 2022)
'Every bit as evocative and spellbinding as Hamnet. O'Farrell, thank God, just seems to be getting better and better' i newspaper
'Her narrative enchantment will wrest suspense and surprise out of a death foretold' Financial Times
'Ingenious, inventive, humane, wry, truthful . . . better than her last novel' Scotsman
'Finely written and vividly imagined' Guardian
'In O'Farrell's hands, historical detail comes alive' Spectator
Winter, 1561. Lucrezia, Duchess of Ferrara, is taken on an unexpected visit to a country villa by her husband, Alfonso. As they sit down to dinner it occurs to Lucrezia that Alfonso has a sinister purpose in bringing her here. He intends to kill her.
Lucrezia is sixteen years old, and has led a sheltered life locked away inside Florence's grandest palazzo. Here, in this remote villa, she is entirely at the mercy of her increasingly erratic husband.
What is Lucrezia to do with this sudden knowledge? What chance does she have against Alfonso, ruler of a province, and a trained soldier? How can she ensure her survival.
The Marriage Portrait is an unforgettable reimagining of the life of a young woman whose proximity to power places her in mortal danger.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Northern Ireland-born, Edinburgh-based O’Farrell’s ninth novel is the beguilingly gripping, fact-based story of a doomed duchess. Set in 16th-century Italy, it follows teen bride Lucrezia, the misfit third daughter of Cosimo de’ Medici, ruler of Florence. Lucrezia finds herself forced into an arranged marriage with Spanish duke Alfonso as a substitute for her older sister, who dies shortly before their wedding. Life with the sinister, controlling Alfonso soon becomes a gilded cage. At a remote rural villa, she realises her husband plans to kill her. However, Lucrezia senses a kindred spirit in Jacopo, mute apprentice to the artist commissioned to paint her portrait. Can he help her survive and even escape? The Renaissance world of courtly intrigue and fairytale castles is creepily atmospheric. O’Farrell’s intimate third-person narrative, urgently written in the present tense, takes us deep inside Lucrezia’s mind as she recalls her eccentric childhood and imagines all manner of nocturnal horrors. Full of poetic imagery and richly descriptive prose, this is a haunting historical fable with a memorable heroine and Hitchcockian twist.