The Marriage Portrait – Maggie O’Farrell

The Marriage Portrait - Maggie O'Farrell
The Marriage Portrait – Maggie O’Farrell

Another wonderful historical novel by Maggie O’Farrell.

We are in 16th century Italy, still a patchwork of Dukedoms and city states, where Lucrezia de’ Medici, the third daughter of Cosimo I de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and Eleonora of Toledo, La Fecundissima, has been married  to Alfonso II d’Este, Duke of Ferrara.

As the bride in this dynastic marriage, Lucrezia replaces her elder sister, Maria, following Maria’s death. Lucrezia is 13 at the time of the wedding in 1558. Three years later she is dead.

It’s wonderful and fascinating how a novelist can take such a slight array of facts and create something so rich and absorbing, and yet still so intensely personal.

Whilst it is written in a very different style from Hamnet (no tears were shed in the reading of this novel), the elaborate prose suits (Maggie O’Farrell’s) Lucrezia’s inner voice – she observes the world with an artist’s eye and experiences life and emotion in extremes,  as many teenagers do – and the richness of Italian Renaissance art.

I know nothing about Robert Browning’s famous poem My Last Duchess. The Marriage Portrait does not exist; but this portrait by Alessandro Allori does:

Alessandro Allori - Lucrezia de’ Medici - North Carolina Museum of Art.jpg

Other reviews:

Author page: The Marriage Portrait – Maggie O’Farrell

Instructions for a Heatwave – Maggie O’Farrell

Not as speedy a read ad the date might suggest – I got distracted by A Journey to Nowhere, more in the mood for some foreign travel rather than travelling back in time to 1976.

But having completed my diversion into Courland, I returned to Instructions for a Heatwave and found Maggie O’Farrell on her usual excellent form, following the London-Irish Riordan family through a tough few days during the sweltering summer of ’76. I particularly liked her description of The Imaginary People In The Kitchen which comes after the end of the novel proper, and which explains its origins.

Publisher page: Instructions for a Heatwave – Maggie O’Farrell