Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 304 pages
First Published: 2022
Coming off her hit bestseller, Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell returns with another gorgeous historical fiction novel set in Renaissance Italy. When her sister dies, Lucrezia de Medici unexpectedly marries her late sister’s fiance, a man desperate for an heir. As Lucrezia ponders her new husband’s nature – whether he is a kind sophisticate or a ruthless politician – she begins to suspect he is planning to kill her.
Maggie O’Farrell is a gorgeous writer, painting a striking portrait of Lucrezia’s life. Highlighting the constrictions of life for medieval women, The Marriage Portrait‘s plot was slow to build, but the descriptive writing was captivating to read. An excellent read for anyone who loves literary historical fiction.
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.
About Maggie O’Farrell
Maggie O’Farrell is an author whose works include This Must Be the Place, The Marriage Portrait, The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox, The Hand that First Held Me, Hamnet, and Instructions for a Heatwave. She is also the author of the memoir I Am, I Am, I Am. She lives in Edinburgh. Visit the author’s website →