The marriage portrait by Maggie O’ Farrell

When Lucrezia De Medici’s older sister Maria dies, she must take her place as bride to Allessandro d’Este, the new duke of Ferrara. At the age of 15, she leaves Florence. But after a few months of marriage Lucrezia is convinced that her husband wants to murder her.

The marriage Portrait is my first O’Farrell novel. I deliberately didn’t start with the hyped Hamnet. This book is set during the Italian Renaissance, so it’s completely within my comfort zone. Soon I will be traveling to Florence myself so that was the trigger to start reading this book.

I quite expected a literary slant and a story where history was not the most important thing. And that’s what I got. Though I found the writing style much easier than expected. The book is just a slow burner. It’s detailed, focuses on everyday things and sometimes makes them more poetic than necessary.

Lucrezia is given the character of a modern woman trying to find her place in a not so modern time. This felt a little artificial at times. Allessandro was much less ‘readable’ as a character and I’m still not quite sure what to think of him now.

The novel constantly tries to let you guess if Lucrezia’s fear of getting killed is justified or if it are childish fantasies of a young and lonely girl. I did see the ending coming, but it will leave some readers puzzled.

This is a strong literary novel that you need to take your time for. I haven’t fallen in love with O’Farrell now, neither am I put off to pick up Hamnet one day. It seems a fine introduction to O’Farrell’s work.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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