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.
Ten different people are invited by a certain Mr. Owen to Soldier Island near the coast of Devon. Once they arrive, there’s no trace of Owen and they all appear to have been lured to the island for a different reason. Because of a storm they are stuck together for at least a week. Not much later, the first murder occurs, and then another. The murderer seems to follow the lines of the nursery rhyme ‘And then there were none’. Who is trying to kill them? And Why?
This is my very first Agatha Christie. I already knew this story from the excellent BBC miniseries and therefore knew who the murderer was. So maybe this was the wrong Christie for me to start with, but knowing the plot, I could focus on the writing.
The book reads incredibly smoothly. There’s a lot of pace and mystery. But not so much depth. The murders follow each other in such quick succession that there is little time to elaborate on certain characters. I had hoped to get to know them a bit better. I’m a big fan of character development, but this book is extremely plot driven. And this works, because a lot is happening and it’s difficult for us as a reader to find the culprit.
The story is well put together but I found the series a better format to get it across. It’s easier to tell the characters apart when you see them. I found this an entertaining read, but expected to be more blown away by the writing style. Certainly one of the more fun classics I’ve read so far. Maybe I’ll try another Christie later.
Last year I participated for the first time to ‘Six in Six’ (read that post here). This meme is organized by Jo of The Book Jotter. The concept is to list six books that you’ve read during the first six months of 2022 in six categories of your own choosing. The categories can be anything, you can find a lot of inspiration in Jo’s sign up post.
It was a hard edition to find categories that made me able to use each book at least once, in which I succeeded :). I reused some of last year’s categories and made up a few new ones.