I was so excited to discover that Maggie O’Farrell was coming out with a new novel this year. It’s always reason for celebration. I fell head over heels for HAMNET a couple years ago. And now she brings into the world another historical novel from the 1500’s. She writes this era brilliantly.
I love novels written about actual people. People who we might not know of. And THE MARRIAGE PORTRAIT certainly fits this description. Who was Lucrezia de’ Medici ? She was the teenage bride of the Duke of Ferrara in the mid-16th century. And why would we care to know more about her? She died mysteriously one year into her marriage. History thinks her husband either killed her or had her killed. And why would he do that? He wanted desperately to have an heir and a year into their marriage no pregnancy had occurred. I had to wonder whose fault it could be.
This wonderful novel begins when the duchess realizes her husband wants to kill her. O’Farrell draws the reader into the story completely with this knowledge. I could not help but wonder where it came from. And then we begin to slowly figure it out. Through chapters going back and forth during the year they are married, we get to know Lucrezia well. She adores painting. And she’s very good at it. She loves animals. And she’s not suited for this relationship and marriage. The Duke is quite a bit older. And she is a mere child.
This novel reads like a symphony. It’s lyrical and even magical. The time period is drawn to perfection. Each sentence is perfect. I found myself deeply entranced in the tragic life of Lucrezia. Her gorgeous almost floor length fiery hair. Her kindness and naivety drew me to her like a moth to a flame.
O’Farrell takes the reader on a wild ride. I don’t want to spoil any part of this amazing novel so I am being cautious where I go with this. But I will say that this story is not cut and dried. Do not be so sure you know where this is going. Ha!
Maggie O’Farrell has written more than a dozen books. Her memoir,” I Am, I Am, I Am”, is about 17 brushes with death. The editor in chief of Knopf says Maggie is on intimate terms with mortal terror.
I have come to terms with the fact that if O’Farrell wrote a grocery list I would have to read it. She is undoubtedly one of the most brilliant writers of our time.
I read my copy of THE MARRIAGE PORTRAIT digitally. It was provided through Netgalley and Knopf. All in exchange for an honest review. This novel is absolutely outstanding. Every bookclub will be reading it. O’Farrell has hit it right out of the book park! Literary fiction at its finest.