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The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O'Farrell

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"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.

REVIEWS

“[A] glittering, propulsive new novel . . . Few writers play as confidently with the nuts and bolts of language, and historical characters netted from the past. O’Farrell adroitly shrinks Lucrezia to her own vanishing point, even if the probable cause of the duchess’s demise was a pulmonary embolism rather than poison. O’Farrell’s creative license beautifully frames the chasms that open up between husband and wife, implicating an institution that has galvanized our canonical writers, including the Victorian poet Robert Browning, whose dramatic monologue ‘My Last Duchess’ was inspired by Branzino’s portrait of Lucrezia.” —Oprah Daily

"O’Farrell intelligently connects Lucrezia’s trapped circumstances with the art that her husband, a notable patron and collector, commissions to immortalize her . . . There is a blinding power to the heightened, almost fetishistic beauty of Renaissance art, this novel suggests as it portrays a world of far greater brutality and fierceness.” —
Wall Street Journal

"[O’Farrell] has spun pure gold out of this tragic history . . . 
The Marriage Portrait builds a rich interior world while vividly re-creating an era, in this case the Italian Renaissance, a period overflowing with intrigue and pomp, rustling heavy fabrics and glowing frescoes, blood and lust and the desire for power.” Minneapolis Star-Tribune

"This duchess certainly looks and sounds and feels as if she were alive . . . O’Farrell has an uncanny ability to put us in Lucrezia’s very unusual shoes. One experiences, viscerally, Lucrezia’s exhaustion and terror when she is abandoned in a strange place a few hours after her marriage, her giddy excitement and expansive feeling of freedom in the early days of her marriage, her revulsion and fear as her husband’s ‘fury and contempt’ emerge . . . The final twist is so unexpected and so gorgeously executed that it brought this reader to tears. With it, O’Farrell demonstrates fiction’s ability to offer counter narratives to those of received history, to open before us imaginative abundance and a tremulous sense of possibility.”
 The Boston Globe

PRODUCT DETAILS
Trade Paperback
Publisher: Penguin Randomhouse
ISBN: 978-0593320624
Pages: Knopf