The Marriage Portrait - Maggie O'Farrell

The Marriage Portrait

By Maggie O'Farrell

  • Release Date: 2022-09-06
  • Genre: Literary Fiction
Score: 4
From 850 Ratings


WOMEN'S PRIZE FOR FICTION FINALIST REESE’S BOOK CLUB PICK • NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • The author of award-winning Hamnet brings the world of Renaissance Italy to jewel-bright life in this unforgettable fictional portrait of the captivating young duchess Lucrezia de' Medici as she makes her way in a troubled court.

“I could not stop reading this incredible true story.” —Reese Witherspoon (Reese’s Book Club Pick)

"O’Farrell pulls out little threads of historical detail to weave this story of a precocious girl sensitive to the contradictions of her station...You may know the history, and you may think you know what’s coming, but don’t be so sure."The Washington Post

Florence, the 1550s. Lucrezia, 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 devote herself to her own artistic pursuits. But when her older sister dies on the eve of her wedding to the ruler of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight: the duke is quick to request her hand in marriage, and her father just as quick to accept on her behalf.
Having barely left girlhood behind, Lucrezia must now enter an unfamiliar 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 beauty and emotion with which she illuminated the Shakespearean canvas of Hamnet, Maggie O’Farrell turns her talents to Renaissance Italy in an extraordinary portrait of a resilient young woman’s battle for her very survival.


  • Hauntingly beautiful characters and delicious language

    By Katycometrue1
    Lucrezia’s character will stay with me for a long time. She is so well-drawn — bold for her time, but perfectly believable in her motivations and actions. Even when I knew her fate, I hoped against hope that she would find a path to freedom. Truly one of the most powerful reads.
  • Edge of My Seat

    By Gogetlo
    Loved this book! Love this writer! Live this time period. Loved the descriptiveness of the characters, art, motives. Really made you think and rethink all the way to the end and beyond to figure out what really happened!!!
  • Slow moving

    By Bobaloo222
    I loved Hamnet and was eager to read The Marriage Portrait. Sadly, this book is very slow-moving, with a lot of unnecessary details that don’t add to the story, but only serve to make the book longer. The twist at the end is interesting, but unbelievable. Not Ms. O’Farrell’s best work.
  • Thoughtful portrayal of Italian Renaissance family life.

    By Observersome
    Very thoughtful portrayal of the royal courts of 16th Italy all too willing to murder child wives if necessary to preserve dynasties as told from the perspective of a once vibrant but now trapped victim. The vividness of descriptions by the author can be taxing to the point the feeling intended becomes labored. But the vividness and feelings evoked are most illuminating. Time well spent reading.
  • Buenísimo

    By Ferreto2023
    Después de leer Hamnet, este no decepciona! Muy bueno
  • Gripping story, vivid writing

    By Great Music Luvr
    Turns out this is my 3rd O’Farrell book in less than a year (Hamnet and her memoir essays the others). She’s got a knack for creating vivid details and weaving fascinating stories. Brava!
  • Wrongly reviewed and overrated

    By Willowtreephoenix
    This book has one good thing and that's the occasional imagery. It follows an unlovable protagonist through a journey on which she experiences no character growth. Reading it is dull and the ending will make you feel angry. I mean it genuinely when I say that this book is a waste of time.
  • Still good work

    By Marzipan24
    I love Maggie O’Farrell and have read all her fictional work. Giving the “end” at the beginning made me apprehensive throughout the story and slow my reading down very much because I loved the main character so much. But in the end I still appreciate O’Farrell’s writing and wound up liking the end.
  • the ways we have and have not evolved

    By cceebar
    Maggie O’Farrell places us right on location with her masterful writing and maintains suspense to the end. And no matter the era, we can relate to the societal expectations, restrictions, and how we try to cope.
  • Marriage Portrait

    By srormy1
    This was a disturbing story but written beautifully. Hard to follow at times with the time frame changing. The mental and physical cruelty to women was horrifying