StoryGraph Saturday: The Marriage Portrait

StoryGraph Saturday is a weekly thing where I randomly choose a book from my To Read pile on StoryGraph and show it off to remind me that it’s there and to show it to you in case you find it interesting, too.


The Marriage Portrait
by Maggie O’Farrell
Historical Fiction
352 pages
Expected publication: August, 2022

From The StoryGraph:

From the author of the breakout New York Times bestseller 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, the 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 is 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. 


I read Maggie O’Farrell’s previous novel, Hamnet, last summer and was blown away by the beauty of her prose and the way that she depicted ordinary life with the same sort of attention and grace that most writers can’t even give to kings and queens. So I was thrilled when I found out that O’Farrell’s next novel will be about a relatively overlooked member of the intriguing Medici family. I eagerly await this novel, and I hope it will be filled with the same kind of shimmering prose that Hamnet had.

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