The Marriage Portrait

by:Maggie O’Farrell

Goodreads description:

From the author of the breakout New York Times best seller Hamnet—winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award—an electrifying new novel set in Renaissance Italy, and centering on the captivating young duchess Lucrezia de Medici.

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 to devote herself to her own artistic pursuits. But when her older sister dies on the eve of her wedding to the ruler of Ferrara, Moderna and Regio, 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 make her way in a troubled 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 drama and verve with which she illuminated the Shakespearean canvas of Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell brings the world of Renaissance Italy to jewel-bright life, and offers an unforgettable portrait of a resilient young woman’s battle for her very survival.

Helen says: 🤓🤓🤓

Descriptive and cinematic- I could hear the movie score in my head while reading the opening chapter…foreshadowing darkness and heavy on the oboe….the bride, Lucrezia di Medici is being led to her death by her infertile husband….Alfonso, her narcissistic husband, was the ultimate gaslighter! He led her to believe it was all her fault. Unfortunately, it began to drag in the middle and I kept falling asleep while reading it. I think this book could have been revised for conciseness. I was invested because, in college, I wrote my big Art History paper on Cosimo di Medici, but this may have been a bit a little boring to read otherwise. Hamnet, by Maggie O’Farrell, was better.

Holly says: 🤓🤓🤓🤓

All good books this month! Another one that I highly recommend. You know if the story is based on Italian royalty during the Renaissance, it’s not going to be all fun and games. This is a fictionalized tale of the brief life of Lucrezia de’ Medici who at 15 weds the despicable (according to this version, and very likely) Alfonso, Duke of Ferrera. This one is hard to read at times, as Lucrezia’s life is never her own, and no one ever really listens to her, or maybe if they had, the outcome would have still been the same. It’s dark and depressing, but it is a really good read. You will root in vain for Lucrezia!

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