The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell (Historical Fiction)

Writing: 5/5 Characters: 4/5 Plot: 4/5

Renaissance Italy brought to life with stunningly sensual (as in all of the senses) language. 15-year old Lucrezia do Cosimo de Medici of Florence is given in marriage to the older (but handsome and charming) new Duke of Ferrara as a replacement for her recently deceased elder sister. An unusual and high spirited girl, we experience her removal to a new land where she must learn to navigate an unfamiliar court and language and meet the expectations of a changeable husband intent on begetting an heir. Lucrezia is a surprisingly talented artist with an artist’s way of viewing the world, and this — coupled with her youth — gives an unusual perspective to her first person descriptions of what she experiences. This individualized viewpoint was my favorite part of the book.

The writing is lush and almost too persuasive and richly drawn, as I found I didn’t want to experience her life quite that vividly. This was not a time period favorable to women, particularly women serving as pawns in the power machinations of Renaissance Italy.

The story is loosely based on a real person — the wikipedia entry is interesting, but don’t read it until after you’ve finished the book!

Thank you to Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group Books and NetGalley for providing an advance copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. The book will be published on September 6th, 2022.