Books · Read in 2023 · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Marriage Portrait (Maggie O’Farrell)

For me this was perfect

★★★★★ – CALSPIE 9.79

Title: The Marriage Portrait
Author: Maggie O’Farrell
Genre: Fiction / Historical
First published: 2022
Edition: Hardback, published by Tinder Press in 2022

Florence, the 1560s. Lucrezia, third daughter of Cosimo de’ Medici, is free to wander the palazzo at will, wondering at its treasures and observing its clandestine workings. But when her older sister dies on the eve of marriage to Alfonso d’Este, heir to the Duke of Ferrara, Modena and Reggio, Lucrezia is thrust unwittingly into the limelight: Alfonso is quick to request her hand in marriage, and her father to accept on her behalf.

Having barely left girlhood, Lucrezia must now make her way in a troubled court whose customs are opaque and where her arrival is not universally welcomed. Perhaps most mystifying of all is her husband himself, Alfonso. Is he the playful sophisticate he appears 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?


This is one of those books that gets under your skin. Under my skin anyway. It’s an oddly slow moving story, in which moments can last pages, but that is exactly what I love about it.

A swashbuckling historical fiction story this is not. Instead the author has woven a girl out of the fabrics of history and made a tapestry of a life for her. The story is based on a duchess that did indeed once exist, but most of the story is completely fictional. She was just the inspiration. Well, I am grateful. because this inspiration sparked an incredibly written novel.

I soon grew to like the main character and feel for her. The story flits between two timelines and it immediately had me intrigued. The tale takes its time, meandering through long slow moments and internal monologues. But a small sense of dread runs throughout. The outcome has been made clear from the start with a historical note.

I loved this from start to finish, even if halfway through I knew how the story would end. It did not matter. I enjoyed the journey far too much. This was indeed a portrait of a marriage in more ways than one.

I think this novel is a tremendous accomplishment. I don’t think I would recommend this to everyone though. It’s a surprisingly small tale told in a big way, but action packed it is not.

For me it was pretty near to perfect!

5 out of 5 stars


CALSPIE*: 9.79

  • Characters: 10
  • Ambience: 9,5
  • Language: 10
  • Story: 9.5
  • Pacing: 9.5
  • Interest: 10
  • Enjoyment: 10

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