The Marriage Portrait: A novel (Unabridged)
REESE’S BOOK CLUB DECEMBER PICK • NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • The author of award-winning Hamnet brings the world of Renaissance Italy to jewel-bright life in this unforgettable fictional portrait of the captivating young duchess Lucrezia de' Medici as she makes her way in a troubled court.
“I could not stop reading this incredible true story.” —Reese Witherspoon (Reese’s Book Club December ’22 Pick)
"O’Farrell pulls out little threads of historical detail to weave this story of a precocious girl sensitive to the contradictions of her station ... You may know the history, and you may think you know what’s coming, but don’t be so sure." —The Washington Post
Florence, the 1550s. Lucrezia, third daughter of the grand duke, is comfortable with her obscure place in the palazzo: free to wonder at its treasures, observe its clandestine workings, and devote herself to her own artistic pursuits. But when her older sister dies on the eve of her wedding to the ruler of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight: the duke is quick to request her hand in marriage, and her father just as quick to accept on her behalf.
Having barely left girlhood behind, Lucrezia must now enter an unfamiliar court whose customs are opaque and where her arrival is not universally welcomed. Perhaps most mystifying of all is her new husband himself, Alfonso. Is he the playful sophisticate he appeared to be before their wedding, the aesthete happiest in the company of artists and musicians, or the ruthless politician before whom even his formidable sisters seem to tremble?
As Lucrezia sits in constricting finery for a painting intended to preserve her image for centuries to come, one thing becomes worryingly clear. In the court’s eyes, she has one duty: to provide the heir who will shore up the future of the Ferranese dynasty. Until then, for all of her rank and nobility, the new duchess’s future hangs entirely in the balance.
Full of the beauty and emotion with which she illuminated the Shakespearean canvas of Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell turns her talents to Renaissance Italy in an extraordinary portrait of a resilient young woman’s battle for her very survival.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
In the first moments of this enthralling literary thriller, novelist Maggie O’Farrell lays out the fate of her protagonist, Lucrezia de’ Medici. Born into the wealthiest and most politically powerful family of the Italian Renaissance, teenage Lucrezia was married off to the handsome and ruthless Duke of Ferrara and was dead within the year. Much as she did with her moving, vivid Shakespeare tale, Hamnet, O’Farrell takes the tiny bit we know about this historical figure and weaves it into a transportive journey. Teenage Lucrezia is both an innocent—small, frail, and fascinated by art and beauty—and a wise-before-her-time witness to the pitfalls and emotional costs of royal life in 16th-century Italy. With narrator Genevieve Gaunt’s elegant tone guiding you through O’Farrell’s tale of gorgeous luxury and brutal political intrigue, The Marriage Portrait is a listen you’ll get lost in.
I could picture every scene and was immersed in the history and life of this young woman. Excellent narration and character development. If you love historical fiction this is a must read.
I was so excited to read this from the reviews, but it fell flat for me. I can appreciate the historical accuracy and creative fiction intertwined, but overall I got bored with the imagery and excessive descriptions. I don’t need to know the shape of his fingernails. I endured a lot of this for an ending that didn’t deliver like I hoped it would. Creative, but didn’t connect all the dots. Just not for me.
The author has a good knowledge of the 1500s and created a beautiful and plausible story. I thought the storyline was hard to follow when it jumped back and forth in chronological order. The story held my interest and seemed realistic. I recommend this to others to read.